The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear an appeal from the National Rifle Association concerning the group’s allegations that the former head of New York’s Department of Financial Services tried to persuade banks and insurance companies to sever ties with the gun rights group.
The New York Department of Financial Services is responsible for initiating civil and criminal investigations and civil enforcement actions. The NRA claims that Maria Vullo, who served as superintendent of the state agency, violated the organization’s First Amendment rights by threatening entities with adverse regulatory actions if they did business with the NRA.
The gun rights group is seeking monetary damages but lost in a federal appeals court based in New York.
A lawyer for the NRA said in court papers that Vullo targeted the NRA “based on its Second Amendment advocacy,” which the agency deemed a “reputational risk to any financial institution serving the NRA.”
As such, the NRA claims that Vullo took actions including press releases, official regulatory guidance and contemporaneous investigations and penalties against financial institutions doing business with the NRA.
They also allege she held meetings and “made back-channel threat” that the groups “cease providing services to the NRA.”
Trevor Morrison, a lawyer representing Vullo, said in court papers that in the wake of the 2018 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, a number of companies announced they would dissociate themselves from the NRA and other groups connected to the firearms industry. The agency issued guidance memorandums to insurance companies and banks to review the relationships they might have with the NRA.
Morrison stressed that the memoranda did not order or direct any regulated entity to take any action.
Morrison also pointed out that a lower court held that Vullo had qualified immunity from such claims.
The case will be heard early next year and likely decided by July.
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