From Jonathan stamp
NEW YORK (Reuters) – A New York State judge on Thursday turned down the National Rifle Association’s offer to dismiss or postpone a lawsuit by New York Attorney General Letitia James to disband the gun rights group.
Judge Joel Cohen of the Manhattan Supreme Court ruled six days after the NRA filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from lawsuits, saying it would lock itself back in more gun-friendly Texas after 150 years in New York.
James sued the NRA, Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre, and others last August.
She accused the group of violating state laws for nonprofits by diverting millions of dollars to fund luxury travel for their officials, no-show employee contracts, and other suspicious expenses.
The NRA argued that if the case continued it belonged in the state capital, Albany, where it had its only New York office, and possibly in federal court where it had counterclaimed James accusing the First Amendment – Having violated the rights of its members.
“This is a case of historic constitutional importance,” argued the group’s lawyer, Sarah Rogers.
The judge said that accepting the NRA’s arguments would “put form above substance” and that it was a “big boost” to tell James that she could not sue in a state court.
“In these circumstances, it would be inappropriate to determine that the attorney-general cannot bring her claims to a state court just because one of the defendants would prefer to go to federal court,” Cohen said.
The NRA has said it “dumped” New York in order to escape its “toxic political environment”.
It accused James, a Democrat, of sueing for political gain and for not liking what the group stands for.
Bankruptcy filings usually set existing litigation, but the attorney general believes their lawsuit deserves an exception because it enforces their “police and regulatory powers”.
James Sheehan, an attorney for James, told the judge that a trial could take place early next year.
The case is New York v National Rifle Association et al., New York State Supreme Court, New York County, No. 451625-2020.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot)