Kansas AG joins coalition to urge High Court to reverse dismissal of NRA case

Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 2:39 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The Kansas Attorney General has joined a coalition to urge the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the dismissal of an NRA case.

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach announced on Monday, April 10, that he joined an 18-state coalition to call on the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision of a lower court.

AG Kobach said the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a case brought by the National Rifle Association against the former superintendent of New York’s Department of Financial Services, Maria Vullo, who the NRA claims violated its First Amendment right.

“The Kobach administration stands up for the Constitution, full stop,” said Dan Burrows, the Attorney General’s chief advisor. “Whether it’s the White House pressuring companies to censor Americans on social media or the New York bureaucrat in this case harassing companies who do business with the NRA, we don’t intend to stand by and let leftist politicians become America’s thought police.”

Kobach said Vullo had regulatory authority over financial institutions in New York and engaged in a “politically motivated campaign against the financial institutions doing business with the NRA but steered clear of any explicit threats.”

According to the AG, the financial institutions got the message to drop the NRA. In the amicus brief filed on Wednesday, the attorneys general urged the Supreme Court to protect the right to free speech from “woke government officials.”

“The Second Circuit’s decision gives government officials license to financially cripple their political opponents, or otherwise stifle their protected speech -- whether those rivals advocate for school choice, abortion rights, religious liberty, environmental protections, or any other politically salient issues,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief.

The coalition highlighted the fact that the Court of Appeals split from the consensus approach of at least six federal circuits when issuing its decision. In the 60 years that followed the Court’s seminal decision in the area, Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, they said federal courts have looked through forms and the substance of a government official’s words and conduct to decide if they threatened to use state power to crack down on speech they do not like.

In this case, however, the AGs said the Second Circuit flipped the approach on its head to require government officials to explicitly threaten adverse consequences before any violations of the First Amendment happen. Even if any interested party would understand the state officials’ words or conduct as an implied threat.

The coalition also argued that the lower court’s decision in the case erodes safeguards for private political speech and paves the way for the government to suppress speech it does not agree with or like.

“If the Second Circuit’s decision is left standing, it’s not difficult to imagine government officials employing similar tactics to stifle disfavored speakers. Whether the method of choice is to target financial institutions that advocacy groups depend on to engage in fulsome political advocacy... or simply to targe private organizations that host events for such groups, the path forward is clearly marked,” the attorneys general wrote. “And if the Court doesn’t intervene to shut down that path, where would such official bullying end?”

Kobach noted that AGs from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also joined the brief led by Montana.