ECBAWM successfully defended a government official’s First Amendment right to strongly criticize the National Rifle Association and other pro-gun groups. The victory came when the Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision and dismissed all claims against former New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria Vullo brought by the National Rifle Association of America.
In a 3-0 decision, the Second Circuit held that the NRA failed to plausibly allege that Ms. Vullo violated its First Amendment rights and that Ms. Vullo was entitled to qualified immunity in her role as DFS Superintendent. The court held that Ms. Vullo was “simply executing her duties as DFS Superintendent and engaging in legitimate enforcement action” when she prosecuted insurance companies’ violations of New York’s insurance law related to the NRA’s CarryGuard product. Ms. Vullo also “was doing her job in good faith” when she advised financial institutions to evaluate the reputational risks of affiliating with the NRA in the wake of the tragic Parkland shooting.
“The ruling validates the work done by a superb public servant who did her job with integrity and passion,” said ECBAWM partner Andrew G. Celli, Jr., who argued the appeal on behalf of former Superintendent Vullo. Ms. Vullo also lauded the Second Circuit’s decision. “For four years, the NRA has proceeded with this baseless case while I remained steadfast in my position,” she said. ECBAWM partner Debra L. Greenberger and associate Marissa R. Benavides also represented Ms. Vullo in the appeal and underlying litigation.
“2nd Circuit rejects NRA claims against ex-NY state official,” Associated Press
“NRA free speech lawsuit against New York regulator is dismissed,” Reuters
“NRA Loses First Amendment Suit Against N.Y. Insurance Regulator,” Bloomberg Law
“2nd Circ. Overturns NRA’s Free Speech Win,” Law360.com