New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a news conference in New York, June 11, 2019. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

A New York State Supreme Court judge blocked state attorney general Letitia James’s attempt to dissolve the National Rifle Association on Wednesday but allowed her lawsuit against the group to proceed. 

James has accused top NRA executives of illegally diverting tens of millions of dollars from the organization.

Judge Joel M. Cohen wrote in his order that while the suit depicts a “grim” situation of “greed, self-dealing, and lax financial oversight” at the organization’s highest levels, the allegations, if proven, can be addressed with “targeted, less intrusive relief,” such as fines and remuneration. The judge found that the allegations, which include officials’ misspending on personal trips and no-show contracts, are not justification for the “corporate death penalty” that James wanted.

In blocking James’s attempt to dissolve the organization, the judge said the attorney general’s office had not proven that the alleged mismanagement of the NRA’s funds had created public harm and cautioned that shuttering the NRA could impact the free-speech rights of its members.

“The Complaint does not allege that any financial misconduct benefited the NRA, or that the NRA exists primarily to carry out such activity, or that the NRA is incapable of continuing its legitimate activities on behalf of its millions of members,” Cohen wrote. “In short, the Complaint does not allege the type of public harm that is the legal linchpin for imposing the ‘corporate death penalty.’”

In a statement, NRA president Charles Cotton celebrated the ruling as a “resounding win” for the organization. An attorney for the organization, William A. Brewer III, said in the statement that his firm looks forward to proving that the NRA acts in the best interest of its members and their belief in Second Amendment freedoms.

James said in a statement that her office is both “heartened” and “disappointed” by the ruling.

“While we’re heartened that the judge rejected the NRA’s attempts to thwart most of the claims in our case against the NRA, we are disappointed that the judge ruled against the dissolution portion of the case,” James said. “We are considering our legal options with respect to this ruling. We remain committed to enforcing New York law regardless of how powerful any individual or organization may be.”

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