The National Rifle Association’s claims that a New York agency and top officials violated its First Amendment rights and selectively enforced insurance law should mostly be thrown out, the state told a federal court Dec. 19.
The battle in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of New York follows an investigation by the state’s Department of Financial Services. The probe resulted in an insurer, Chubb Ltd., and an insurance broker, Lockton Cos., halting their insurance programs for NRA members.
Lockton and Chubb admitted to violating insurance law, including providing insurance coverage for firearm-related criminal liability, according to the state’s brief.
The NRA received compensation under the programs and sued New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state’s financial enforcement head, Maria T. Vullo, and her agency, the DFS.
Cuomo directed “an overt viewpoint-based discrimination campaign against the NRA and the millions of law-abiding gun owners that it represents,” the group alleges.
“Simply put, Defendants made it clear to banks and insurers that it is bad business in New York to do business with the NRA,” it says in the complaint.
Two First Amendment claims and part of a selective-enforcement claim remain in the suit, according to the state’s Dec. 19 motion to dismiss.
The selective-enforcement claims should be thrown out for several reasons, the state argues. Sovereign immunity bars claims for money damages against DFS and Cuomo and Vullo in their official capacities, it says.
Vullo has absolute immunity in her personal capacity, and there are no allegations of Cuomo’s personal involvement, the brief says.
The NRA also didn’t sufficiently allege key aspects of the selective-enforcement claim, it says.
As for the First Amendment claim, DFS isn’t a proper defendant because it’s not a “person” who can be sued under Section 1983, the state says. But the First Amendment claims against Cuomo and Vullo remain in the suit, it says.
Brewer Attorneys & Counselors and Cooper & Kirk PLLC represent the NRA.
The New York Attorney General’s Office represents Cuomo, Vullo, and the DFS.
The case is Nat’l Rifle Ass’n of Am. v. Cuomo, N.D.N.Y., No. 1:18-cv-00566, motion to dismiss 12/19/18.
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