Free Speech Arguments – Episode 2: NRA v. Vullo

The Free Speech Arguments Podcast brings you oral arguments from important First Amendment free political speech cases across the country. Find us on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

March 18, 2024   •  By IFS Staff   •    •  

Episode 2: NRA v. Vullo

National Rifle Association of America v. Maria T. Vullo, argued before the Supreme Court of the United States on March 18, 2024.

From the Petition for a Writ of Certiorari:

Bantam Books v. Sullivan held that a state commission with no formal regulatory power violated the First Amendment when it “deliberately set out to achieve the suppression of publications” through “informal sanctions,” including the “threat of invoking legal sanctions and other means of coercion, persuasion, and intimidation.” Respondent here, wielding enormous regulatory power as the head of New York’s Department of Financial Services (“DFS”), applied similar pressure tactics—including backchannel threats, ominous guidance letters, and selective enforcement of regulatory infractions—to induce banks and insurance companies to avoid doing business with Petitioner, a gun rights advocacy group.

Respondent targeted Petitioner explicitly based on its Second Amendment advocacy, which DFS’s official regulatory guidance deemed a “reputational risk” to any financial institution serving the NRA. The Second Circuit held such conduct permissible as a matter of law, reasoning that “this age of enhanced corporate social responsibility” justifies regulatory concern about “general backlash” against a customer’s political speech.

Question Presented:

Does the First Amendment allow a government regulator to threaten regulated entities with adverse regulatory actions if they do business with a controversial speaker, as a consequence of (a) the government’s own hostility to the speaker’s viewpoint or (b) a perceived “general backlash” against the speaker’s advocacy?


Listen to the argument here:


IFS Staff

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