Supreme Court limits government pressure campaigns in free speech ruling for NRA.

Title: Supreme Court Upholds NRA’s Free Speech Rights in Ruling Against Government Pressure Campaigns

The Supreme Court has sided with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in a First Amendment case, potentially limiting the ability of state regulators to exert pressure on advocacy groups. The unanimous decision could impact the way government officials interact with private companies associated with controversial organizations.

The ruling allows the NRA to continue its lawsuit against a former New York official who allegedly encouraged banks and insurance companies to sever ties with the gun rights group following the 2018 Parkland, Florida, high school shooting. The court’s opinion, penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, stated that government officials cannot use their power to punish or suppress speech, either directly or indirectly through intermediaries.

The NRA accused Maria Vullo, the former superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, of not only pressuring insurance companies to disassociate from the gun lobby but also threatening enforcement actions against those that did not comply. A key point of contention was a meeting Vullo had with insurance market Lloyd’s of London in 2018, where the NRA claims she offered to forgo prosecution of other violations if the company assisted in the campaign against gun groups. Vullo disputed these allegations, arguing that the NRA’s claims were not specific.

Vullo, who served under Democratic former Governor Andrew Cuomo, targeted an insurance product that is illegal in New York: third-party policies sold through the NRA that cover personal injury and criminal defense costs following the use of a firearm. Critics referred to these policies as “murder insurance.”

The decision offers guidance to government regulators on the extent to which they can pressure private companies that do business with contentious advocacy groups. While the NRA is more commonly associated with Second Amendment arguments, it found unexpected allies in its First Amendment claim, including the American Civil Liberties Union.

A US district court initially dismissed some of the NRA’s claims but allowed its First Amendment arguments to proceed against Vullo. However, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned this decision, concluding that Vullo’s actions were not coercive and that she was entitled to qualified immunity. The NRA’s case relied heavily on a 1963 Supreme Court decision, Bantam Books v. Sullivan, which addressed a Rhode Island commission that threatened to refer distributors to police for selling books deemed obscene. The Supreme Court ruled that such “informal censorship” was unconstitutional.

This article has been updated with additional details.