Case Overview

FIRE Victory closed

The National Rifle Association sued the head of New York’s Department of Financial Services, alleging that she made a series of thinly veiled threats against regulated banks and insurance companies to pressure them to sever ties with the NRA because she opposed the NRA’s political advocacy. The NRA alleged that these pressure tactics amounted to coercive viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment. But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed, dismissing the case because in its view, bank regulators are right to be concerned about unpopular political speech from bank customers. FIRE filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case—and it did.

On January 16, 2024, FIRE filed another amicus brief at the Supreme Court, this time on the merits of the case, urging the Court to clarify that the First Amendment’s formal legal protections cannot be evaded by veiled threats and vague demands for cooperation. The facts alleged by the NRA demonstrate that New York officials were trying to indirectly censor speech that they could not punish directly. And this case, FIRE’s brief shows, is far from an isolated example.

In May 2024, the Supreme Court agreed with FIRE's position. The Court unanimously reaffirmed its prior 60-year-old ruling that governments cannot cannot use third parties to censor speech they disfavor. It wrote that "a government official cannot do indirectly what she is barred from doing directly."