Supreme Court unanimously sides with NRA to allow free speech lawsuit against New York official

Gun Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that a free speech lawsuit from the National Rifle Association against a New York state official could move forward.

The ruling was written by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, one of the liberal justices of the highest court in the land.

‘Government officials have no business using their regulatory authority to blacklist disfavored political groups.’

Sotomayor wrote that a New York state official had overstepped her bounds when she used the power of her office to try to dissuade companies against doing business with the NRA after the horrendous Parkland school shooting in 2018.

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The NRA lawsuit accused Maria T. Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services, of infringing on the group’s constitutional right of free speech. Under Vullo’s leadership, the department had issued two memos, one to financial companies and another to insurance companies, recommending that they “review” their business relationships with the NRA.

Sotomayor wrote that government officials were “free to criticize the N.R.A. and pursue the conceded violations of New York insurance law,” but that they could not constitutionally wield state power to “threaten enforcement actions” against companies they regulated in order to “punish or suppress the N.R.A.’s gun-promotion advocacy.”

She cited precedent, saying, “Government officials cannot attempt to coerce private parties in order to punish or suppress views that the government disfavors.”

Initially, a district court ruled on the side of the NRA, but that was reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which sided with Vullo. The Supreme Court overturned that ruling.

The ACLU, which represented the NRA, praised the decision.

“Today’s decision confirms that government officials have no business using their regulatory authority to blacklist disfavored political groups,” said David Cole, the group’s national legal director.

“We represented the NRA before the Supreme Court, arguing that any government attempt to blacklist an advocacy group because of its viewpoint violates the First Amendment — and the highest court in our nation agreed,” read a statement from the NRA on social media.

The NRA posted an image of all the headlines hailing the decision on social media.

“Today, in a stinging rebuke of New York’s ‘blacklisting campaign’ against the NRA, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled for the NRA in its case against former New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo,” it wrote.

Vullo’s attorney Neal Katyal only repeated the claim, now refuted by the Supreme Court.

“Ms. Vullo did not violate anyone’s First Amendment rights,” he said.

The news of the ruling on Thursday had been overshadowed by the guilty verdict handed down by a Manhattan jury against former President Donald Trump.

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