FOR THE RECORD
March 14, 2023 – The National Rifle Association of America (NRA) has appealed the New York Supreme Court’s June 10, 2022, decision dismissing its First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause counterclaims against New York Attorney General Letitia James.
The NYAG filed a dissolution lawsuit against the NRA in August 2020, following her campaign declarations in 2018 that she would investigate the NRA if she was elected. She had described the NRA as a “criminal enterprise” and “terrorist organization.” The NYAG assumed public office and, exactly as she promised her supporters, launched a campaign against the NRA in April 2019, and, approximately a year later, filed a well-publicized lawsuit against the NRA – billed by her as the suit to dissolve the NRA. The NRA filed counterclaims in July 2021, and supplemented its filing in April 2022.
The NRA alleged that James’s campaign to shut down the NRA was motivated by a desire to silence its pro-Second Amendment advocacy. On June 10, 2022, the New York Supreme Court dismissed the counterclaims without allowing discovery. Citing cases arising in the criminal context, the Court contended that the NRA was required to show that the NYAG had no probable cause to investigate it to state a claim under the First Amendment.
In its appeal, filed in the Appellate Division, First Department, the NRA states that the "lower court’s opinion practically draws a roadmap for how officials can abuse state power to destroy the ability for non-profits to advocate for positions disfavored by the government. An official can run for office with the stated aim of taking adverse action to a silence a disfavored speaker."
The appeal continues, "Under the lower court’s decision, so long as the targeted entity has committed any technical infraction whatsoever, it would have no redress for the blatant violation of its First Amendment rights. This would mark a decisive and dangerous break with both federal and New York law."