Supreme Court Rules 9-0 New York Violated NRA’s First Amendment Rights, Good News for Trump

Gun Rights

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Rifle Association (NRA) won at the Supreme Court against New York and the anti-gun movement Thursday, unanimously ruling that the NRA’s First Amendment rights were violated by politicians who oppose the Second Amendment, in a major victory with implications for former President Trump.

As the Supreme Court noted, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) hatched a scheme to push the NRA “into financial jeopardy” and ultimately “shut it down,” and the actions of his Department of Financial Services (DFS) chief Maria Vullo appeared to be an attempt to achieve precisely that.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that the lawsuit should be dismissed outright. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because in the first stage of a lawsuit a court must assume the facts alleged by the plaintiff are true, that the NRA’s allegations would amount to a First Amendment violation, and so the lawsuit must proceed to uncover the truth of those claims.

Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote the opinion for the unanimous court.

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“Six decades ago, this Court held that a government entity’s threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion against a third party to achieve the suppression of disfavored speech violates the First Amendment,” Sotomayor began. “Today, the Court reaffirms what it said then: Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors. Petitioner National Rifle Association (NRA) plausibly alleges that respondent Maria Vullo did just that.”

“Those allegations, if true, state a First Amendment claim,” she explained.

“At the heart of the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause is the recognition that viewpoint discrimination is uniquely harmful to a free and democratic society,” the opinion continued. Consequently:

A government official can share her views freely and criticize particular beliefs, and she can do so forcefully in the hopes of persuading others to follow her lead. In doing so, she can rely on the merits and force of her ideas, the strength of her convictions, and her ability to inspire others. What she cannot do, however, is use the power of the State to punish or suppress disfavored expression.

Supreme Court precedent holds that “the First Amendment prohibits government officials from relying on the threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion . . . to achieve the suppression of disfavored speech.”

As a result, “A government official cannot coerce a private party to punish or suppress disfavored speech on her behalf.”

Sotomayor explained:

To state a claim that the government violated the First Amendment through coercion of a third party, a plaintiff must plausibly allege conduct that, viewed in context, could be reasonably understood to convey a threat of adverse government action in order to punish or suppress the plaintiff ’s speech. Accepting the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true, the NRA plausibly alleged that Vullo violated the First Amendment by coercing DFS-regulated entities into disassociating with the NRA in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-pro motion advocacy.

According to the NRA’s lawsuit, that happened when Vullo dealt with Lloyd’s, an insurance company that does business in New York.

“As DFS superintendent, Vullo had direct regulatory and enforcement authority over all insurance companies and financial service institutions doing business in New York,” Sotomayor continued. The problem arose because, “Vullo allegedly said she would be less interested in pursuing [Lloyd’s] infractions . . . so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA.”

“So, whether analyzed as a threat or as an inducement, the conclusion is the same: Vullo allegedly coerced Lloyd’s by saying she would ignore unrelated infractions and focus her enforcement efforts on NRA-related business alone, if Lloyd’s ceased underwriting NRA policies and disassociated from gun-promotion groups,” the opinion continued.

“A follow-on tweet from Cuomo reaffirmed the message: Businesses in New York should consider their reputations and revisit any ties they have to the NRA, which he called an extremist organization,” the court added.

“One can reasonably infer from the complaint that Vullo coerced DFS-regulated entities to cut their ties with the NRA in order to stifle the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy and advance her views on gun control,” the unanimous opinion continued.

“The NRA’s allegations, if true, highlight the constitutional concerns with the kind of intermediary strategy that Vullo purportedly adopted to target the NRA’s advocacy,” Sotomayor surmised. “Such a strategy allows government officials to expand their regulatory jurisdiction to suppress the speech of organizations that they have no direct control over.”

The Supreme Court’s opinion concludes, “Ultimately, the critical takeaway is that the First Amendment prohibits government officials from wielding their power selectively to punish or suppress speech, directly or (as alleged here) through private intermediaries.”

Justice Neil Gorsuch and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson both joined the court’s opinion and also wrote separate concurrences.

This decision could make things difficult for New York officials, possibly including Attorney General Letitia James, who ran for office on the promise of crushing two opponents: the NRA and President Donald Trump, both of whom have been stuck in court in the Empire State. Now the NRA can get into discovery, forcing disclosure of internal emails, texts, and memos that could confirm that the Left is engaging in lawfare that violates the constitutional rights of Republicans and conservatives.

“This Supreme Court decision is vitally important for the rule of law,” says former Ambassador Ken Blackwell, who is a member of the NRA’s board of directors. “It is a win for the Constitution and for President Trump.”

“That makes it a win for the American people, and I encourage all Americans to see this lawfare for what it is,” Blackwell added. “We need President Trump back in the White House so that we can restore these legal protections for future generations.”

The case is National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, No. 22-842 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Breitbart News senior legal contributor Ken Klukowski is a lawyer who served in the White House and Justice Department. He also was on an amicus brief filed in this case. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter) @kenklukowski.

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