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The National Rifle Association lost its bid Thursday to move the New York attorney general’s civil suit against it from Manhattan to Albany.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Joel Cohen shot down the gun group’s apparent effort to have the case heard in the more gun-friendly atmosphere of upstate New York, ruling that they never actually designated a specific site for their state headquarters.
Cohen noted that the the NRA started back in 1871, before non-profits were required to make such a designation, and never updated their paperwork.
“If the NRA has an office of corporation, it would be New York County unless and until the NRA amends their certificate of corporation,” Cohen said in the Thursday ruling.
The judge was also not persuaded that a federal judge should handle the case rather than a state judge.
“It would be inappropriate to find that he AG cannot pursue her claims in state court just because the defendant would prefer to pursue them in federal court,” Cohen added.
New York Attorney General Letitia James brought the civil case against the pro-gun group in August, seeking to break it up over allegations that top executives siphoned millions of dollars and flouted non-profit rules to fund lavish lifestyles.
But the organization sought to the move the case — if not have it tossed out entirely — to upstate claiming its NY office of corporation is located in Albany and not in Manhattan where James filed suit.
“If you’re a non-profit and you’re fighting for your very existence, you have the right to fight that in your backyard,” NRA lawyer Sarah Rogers said during a video hearing in Manhattan Supreme Court Thursday.
Lawyers from the AG’s office disputed that the NRA’s office of corporation in the state is in Albany.
The gun lobbying group also claimed it is already duking out several other related cases in federal court, including a countersuit the NRA filed against the state of New York the same day James brought her case. And therefore, the case should not only be moved upstate but should also be moved to federal court.
And as far as the NRA’s argument that the case should be moved to Albany because of its own counter suit — which was filed after James’ case — “it seems like the existence of a case in a second place was the NRA’s doing, not the state’s,” Cohen said.
After the hearing, James issued a statement saying: “Today’s 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,” James’ statement continued.
On Friday, the NRA announced it would be reincorporating in Texas and “breaking free from the toxic political environment of New York,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said in a statement.
The announcement came as the group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy which could put all open litigation — including the AG’s case — on hold.
The NRA asked for a stay in the case in light of the bankruptcy proceeding, which the AG’s office is opposing.
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