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Regulator told banks to stop doing business with the NRA “or else.” The Supreme Court is asked to weigh in.

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Sean Reyes, the Attorney General of the state of Utah, has joined 18 other attorneys general calling on the US Supreme Court to reverse a decision by the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the National Rifle Association (NRA) against the former superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services Maria Vullo.

Vullo told financial institutions to stop doing business with the NRA “or else.”

In an amicus brief, the attorneys general said that Vullo violated the First Amendment rights of the NRA, and “engaged in a politically motivated campaign against the financial institutions doing business with the NRA but steered clear of any explicit threats.”

We obtained a copy of the amicus brief for you here.

The attorneys general asked the Supreme Court to protect the free speech rights of the NRA and others.

They also argued that courts have generally sided with organizations and individuals instead of the government in similar cases.

“But in this case, the Second Circuit flipped this approach on its head, effectively requiring a government official to explicitly threatened adverse consequences before any First Amendment violation occurs, even if any interested party would understand a state official’s words or conduct as an implied threat,” Utah’s attorney general’s office wrote in a press release.

The coalition of attorney generals argued that the decision by the lower court would allow the government to censor speech that it does not 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 target private organizations that host events for such groups, the path forward is clearly marked,” the attorneys general wrote in the brief. “And if this Court doesn’t intervene to shut down that path, ‘where would such official bullying end?’”

The amicus brief was filed by Utah, Montana, Georgia, Ohio, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, Missouri, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Kansas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Kentucky, South Dakota, Wyoming, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and South Carolina.

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