Supreme Court Allows NRA’s Free Speech Lawsuit Against Former NY Official To Proceed

The Supreme Court cleared the way Thursday for a National Rifle Association (NRA) lawsuit against former New York state Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo over claims she violated the gun rights group’s free speech rights. In a unanimous decision, the Court reversed a lower-court ruling that had tossed out the NRA’s lawsuit.

The NRA alleged that Vullo pressured banks and insurance companies to blacklist the organization after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Vullo argued that she had rightly investigated NRA-endorsed insurance policies, sometimes referred to as “murder insurance,” and spoke out about the risks of doing business with gun groups without exerting improper pressure on companies.

The NRA claimed that Vullo leveraged a state investigation into the legality of NRA-endorsed insurance products to pressure insurance companies, suggesting she would go easier on them if they cut ties with the group. Vullo maintained that the products clearly violated state law and that her probe started before the Parkland massacre.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in the opinion that 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.” However, she noted that the ruling does not shield the NRA and other advocacy groups from regulation.

The case was supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, which represented the NRA, and the Biden administration, which argued that some of the group’s claims should go forward.