OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
The National Rifle Association scored a major victory in a case that could have far-reaching implications for the future of the Second Amendment.
In a ruling on Wednesday, New York Supreme Court Judge Joel Cohen said that Attorney General Letitia James could not attempt to dissolve the National Rifle Association, CNN reported.
New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen said the attorney general’s suit paints a “grim” picture of “greed, self-dealing, and lax financial oversight” at the highest levels of the NRA. But, Cohen writes in his opinion, the attorney general also describes the NRA as a victim of its executives’ schemes to siphon millions of dollars away from the organization’s legitimate operations.
Cohen said that, if that’s proven, New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office can address the harm done to the NRA and its members and donors with “targeted, less intrusive” relief. He denied the attorney general’s claim to dissolve the NRA, stating in part that James’ office had failed to prove that the alleged mismanagement of the organization’s funds has created public harm.
“The Complaint does not allege that any financial misconduct benefited the NRA, or that the NRA exists primarily to carry out such activity, or that the NRA is incapable of continuing its legitimate activities on behalf of its millions of members,” the judge said. “In short, the Complaint does not allege the type of public harm that is the legal linchpin for imposing the ‘corporate death penalty.’”
He also said that dissolving the NRA could affect the right to free speech of its members.
James said that the judge’s decision still allowed her office’s to pursue its claims that “fraud, abuse, and greed permeate through the NRA and its senior leadership.”
“While we’re heartened that the judge rejected the NRA’s attempts to thwart most of the claims in our case against the NRA, we are disappointed that the judge ruled against the dissolution portion of the case,” she said. “We are considering our legal options with respect to this ruling. We remain committed to enforcing New York law regardless of how powerful any individual or organization maybe.”
The NRA and its attorneys celebrated the victory.
“We applaud the court’s recognition that dissolution is neither appropriate nor justified,” Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors attorney William A. Brewer III, who represented the NRA said to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We look forward to continuing the defense of the NRA – and proving that it acts in the best interests of its members and the Second Amendment freedoms in which they believe.”
“This is a resounding win for the NRA, its 5 million members, and all who believe in this organization,” Charles Cotton, the NRA President, said. “The message is loud and clear: the NRA is strong and secure in its mission to protect constitutional freedom.”
Still, James hinted in her press release that she intends to continue to pursue actions against the NRA.
“In today’s decision, the court let stand all of the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) claims of self-dealing, abuse, and unlawful conduct by LaPierre, who has been at the helm of the NRA for three decades. Similarly, the court rebuked the efforts by Frazer to dismiss him from the case, finding that OAG’s allegations that Frazer violated his obligations as the NRA’s General Counsel for failing to address conflicts of interest and respond to whistleblowers who alerted the NRA to systemic financial wrongdoing were valid. The court also held that OAG’s claims against the NRA for false regulatory filings and failing to address conflicts of interest will proceed,” the press release said.
“In August 2020, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the NRA and four of the organization’s current or former top executives for failing to manage the NRA’s funds; failing to follow numerous state and federal laws, as well as the NRA’s own bylaws and policies; and contributing to the loss of more than $64 million in just three years. The suit was filed against the NRA as a whole, as well as LaPierre, Frazer, former Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Wilson “Woody” Phillips, and former Chief of Staff and Executive Director of General Operations Joshua Powell,” it said.