A New York state judge ruled Thursday that state Attorney General Letitia James’ lawsuit seeking to dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA) can go ahead.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen on Thursday denied the NRA’s motions to dismiss the case, pause it, or transfer it to another court.
“The attorney general is the chief law enforcement of the state of New York. She is enforcing a New York state statute,” Cohen said in a court hearing, as reported by several news outlets. “It would be inappropriate in these circumstances to find that the attorney general cannot pursue her claims in state court just because one of the defendants prefers to proceed in federal court.”
He added: “State courts have their role to play, particularly when enforcing state law.”
Last week, the NRA declared bankruptcy and said it would move its headquarters from New York to Texas. James said that the move was an attempt to dodge her lawsuit, which accuses the group of rewarding loyalists with no-show contracts and other allegations. It claims that NRA head Wayne LaPierre took lavish vacations using NRA funding to buy Christmas gifts and misappropriated other funds.
The NRA said the lawsuit brought by the attorney general is motivated by political animus.
In a statement on Jan. 15, the organization said it will “restructure the Association as a Texas nonprofit to exit what it believes is a corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York” and will “enable long-term, sustainable growth and ensure the NRA’s continued success as the nation’s leading advocate for constitutional freedom—free from the toxic political environment of New York.”
James, in response to Cohen’s decision, said that his order “reaffirms what we’ve known all along: the NRA does not get to dictate if and where they will answer for their actions.”
“We thank the court for allowing our case to move forward and look forward to holding the NRA accountable,” she said in a statement.
The NRA filed a counter-suit in a federal court in Albany, the capital of New York state, saying the organization’s rights were violated.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind case,” NRA attorney Sarah Rogers said Thursday. “We have real constitutional claims here.”
What’s more, she argued, Albany should be the proper venue to try the case based on where the NRA was incorporated.
“The NRA is fighting for its very existence,” Rogers said, according to Politico. “To the extent that there’s any ambiguity, why not let us fight for our existence in the place we chose?”