Supreme Court to hear First Amendment challenge to New York’s financial ‘blacklisting’ of NRA

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday in a key First Amendment case brought by the National Rifle Association (NRA) that has linked unlikely bedfellows together to challenge a government official’s action they say trampled on their First Amendment rights. 

Before the high court is the case National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, which questions whether a government regulator threatens regulated entities with adverse regulatory actions if they do business with a controversial speaker, allegedly because of the government’s own hostility to the speaker’s viewpoint, violates the First Amendment.

The NRA filed its 2018 challenge following the revelation that former New York State Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo, at the order of former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, allegedly blacklisted the NRA – effectively forcing banks and insurers to cut ties with the group.

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments in National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo on Monday. (STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

She sent “guidance letters” in 2018 to banks and insurance companies encouraging them to sever ties with the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations, citing reputational risks. The guidance letters were issued shortly after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 students and staff.

The lawsuit alleges that Vullo made “backroom threats” against regulated firms, accompanied by offers of leniency on unrelated infractions if regulated entities would agree to blacklist the NRA.

The Supreme Court in November agreed to hear National Rifle Association of America v. Vullo, after a federal appeals court in 2022 dismissed the group’s lawsuit, arguing Vullo’s actions were reasonable. 

Dozens of political leaders, lawmakers, scholars and organizations have filed or joined amicus briefs in support of the NRA’s position, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) – a group that ideologically opposes the NRA but said it is “proud” to defend the gun group’s “right to speak.”

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NRA headquarters

“While the ACLU disagrees with the NRA’s advocacy, we are proud to defend its right to speak,” ACLU Legal Director David Cole, who will argue the case for the NRA, said in a statement. (STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

“While the ACLU disagrees with the NRA’s advocacy, we are proud to defend its right to speak,” ACLU Legal Director David Cole, who will argue the case for the NRA, said in a statement. 

“Public officials cannot be allowed to abuse their regulatory powers to blacklist an organization just because they oppose its political views. If New York is allowed to do this to the NRA, it will provide a playbook for other state officials to abuse their authority to target groups they don’t like,” he said. 

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Supreme Court

The Supreme Court on Feb. 28, 2024 in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

“This case is important to the NRA and all advocacy organizations who rely upon the protections of the First Amendment,” says NRA counsel William A. Brewer III. “Many groups will benefit when the Court reminds government officials that they cannot use intimidation tactics, backdoor censorship, or regulatory blacklisting to silence those with whom they disagree.”

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The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Monday starting at 10:00 a.m.  

Fox News Digital’s Emma Colton contributed to this report. 

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