Editors at National Review Online assess the importance of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Maria Vullo attempted to leverage her position as superintendent of the New York Department of Financial Services to threaten companies that did business with the National Rifle Association. On Thursday, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that her efforts violated the First Amendment.

As the head of the DFS from 2016 to 2019, Vullo helped regulate insurance companies and other financial institutions in the state, enabling her to launch investigations and issue civil sanctions that could cripple businesses. An anti-gun zealot, Vullo tried to use that power to pressure insurers that partnered with the NRA to sell insurance to its members.

The Supreme Court decision describes a February 2018 meeting between Vullo and insurer Lloyd’s of London in which she explained her pro-gun-control views and told the company’s executives “‘that DFS was less interested in pursuing’ infractions unrelated to any NRA business ‘so long as Lloyd’s ceased providing insurance to gun groups, especially the NRA.’”

The message of this meeting was also communicated in public guidance to other entities released by Vullo and then-governor Andrew Cuomo.

In a 9–0 opinion written by Sonia Sotomayor, justices ruled that this campaign to suppress speech was illegal.

“Vullo was free to criticize the NRA and pursue the conceded violations of New York insurance law,” Sotomayor wrote. “She could not wield her power, however, to threaten enforcement actions against DFS-regulated entities in order to punish or suppress the NRA’s gun-promotion advocacy.”

The decision leaned on a ruling in the 1963 case Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan concerning an effort by Rhode Island to protect young people from what they deemed indecent. “Ultimately,” Thursday’s opinion reads, “Bantam Books stands for the principle that a government official cannot directly or indirectly coerce a private party to punish or suppress disfavored speech on her behalf.”