New York Attorney General Letitia James has urged a state court to reject claims by the National Rifle Association that its attempts to dissolve the gun rights group are unconstitutional.
Miami World / .
James filed a motion Thursday night to dismiss the NRA’s counterclaims in litigation he filed last summer accusing the organization of financial misconduct, including diverting millions of dollars in charitable funds for the personal benefit of executives and associates of the NRA. His lawsuit, which is taking place in Manhattan state court, is aimed at dissolving the organization or, alternatively, removing its leadership.
The NRA, represented by Brewer Attorneys & Counselors, responded with counterclaims accusing James of violating his right to freedom of expression and “arming” his powers to carry out a “flagrant and malicious campaign of retaliation” against the group because he opposes politically to its mission. The NRA also tried to protect itself through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Texas, but the judge overseeing that case rejected it in May, finding it was not filed in good faith.
“The NRA is rife with fraud and abuse, so we filed our lawsuit to remove senior managers and dissolve the organization. For almost a year now, the NRA has used one tactic after another to delay accountability, but each time the courts have rejected its maneuvers, ”James said in a statement Friday.
William Brewer, representing the NRA, said in a statement Friday that the organization hopes to “vindicate the rights of its members” before a jury.
“(This) presentation is another example of Attorney General James repeating discredited allegations as she blatantly attempts to use ‘qualified immunity’ as a shield to avoid scrutiny for her abuse of power,” Brewer said.
James argued in Thursday’s motion that the NRA cannot support his claims that it violated his rights under the 1st and 14th Amendments of the US Constitution, which adds that “illegal conduct is not subject to the protection of the First Amendment”.
The attorney general also said the NRA, arguing that it “selectively” enforced New York’s nonprofit law against it, did not offer examples of like-minded entities being treated differently. Furthermore, he argued, the organization did not allege specific facts to show that his rights have been violated.
The state court litigation was largely suspended while James worked to have the bankruptcy case dismissed in Dallas. During the bankruptcy trial, CEO Wayne LaPierre testified about the gifts he received, including yacht charters provided by a Hollywood producer who does business with the NRA, but denied any wrongdoing.
US Bankruptcy Judge Harlin Hale in Dallas concluded in May that the bankruptcy had been incorrectly filed as an attempt to gain a litigation advantage in the New York lawsuit.
Justice Joel Cohen on the New York State Supreme Court is overseeing the New York case. A hearing on the attorney general’s motion to dismiss the counterclaims has not yet been scheduled.