NRA fights for its future in Texas, New York courts

ap photo This 2012 photo shows Illinois gun owners and supporters file NRA applications during an Illinois Gun Owners Lobby Day convention before marching to the Illinois State in Springfield, Ill.

NEW YORK — The National Rifle Association is in a double-barreled legal battle for its future, moving forward with its bankruptcy case while fighting accusations it only sought Chapter 11 protection to avoid a potentially crippling lawsuit.

Lawyers for the influential advocacy group told a federal judge Wednesday that the organization’s decision to declare bankruptcy, with plans to reincorporate in gun-friendly Texas, was not an attempt to dodge a lawsuit brought by the attorney general in New York, its current corporate home.

“New York is a hostile environment for second amendment advocacy that’s no secret, and it’s no accident,” NRA lawyer Sarah Rogers told the bankruptcy judge, Harlin DeWayne Hale, at a hearing in Dallas.

But another NRA lawyer, Patrick Neligan, said that the organization was “not afraid” of fighting the lawsuit filed by New York Attorney General Letitia James and wouldn’t use bankruptcy proceedings as protection.

A lawyer for James, a Democrat, said despite that pledge, they were still concerned the NRA was attempting an end-run around the case, pointing to a press release in which the organization said that by filing for bankruptcy it was “dumping New York.”

The NRA, in the press release, said it was in strong financial shape but sought to reorganize through bankruptcy because it wanted to break free of a “corrupt political and regulatory environment in New York,” where it has been incorporated as a nonprofit since 1871.

Neligan told Hale on Wednesday that the NRA filed for bankruptcy in part because it feared “death by 1,000 cuts” not solely from the New York case, but from various lawsuits it faces across the country.

The NRA and James’ office were set to tangle again Thursday before a New York judge over the lawsuit, the latest in a series of state regulatory challenges that spurred the organization’s pivot to bankruptcy.

James sued the NRA last August, seeking its dissolution over claims that top executives illegally diverted tens of millions of dollars for lavish trips, no-show contracts for associates and other questionable expenditures.

The NRA has denied the allegations, said “thwarting the NRA’s corporate purpose is a career goal for James,” and argued in court papers that the lawsuit should be thrown out on technical grounds.


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