Phillip Journey, a family court judge in Wichita and member of the NRA’s board, inserted himself into the group’s bankruptcy to try and block New York’s top law enforcement official from dissolving the 150-year-old group and distributing its $200 million in assets to other, less controversial gun-rights organizations. To do so, he says he must take on a culture of subservience and alleged financial misdeeds that has sprung up around the group’s top executive, Wayne LaPierre.
In February, Journey urged the court to call a timeout in the bankruptcy case and appoint an independent examiner. That, Journey says, is the only way to get to the bottom of a dispute riddled with allegations of fraud and self-enrichment by NRA executives, conflicts of interest among attorneys and creditors and claims of over-reach by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who had called the gun-rights group a “terrorist organization” even before she took office.
“A lot of times, bankruptcy looks like a dog pile,” Journey, who sold about 100 weapons from his personal collection to fund his successful campaign for his judicial seat last year, said in an interview. “All I want is to open the door, let in an examiner and see where to go. Restore corporate governance and let the NRA operate like it’s supposed to.”
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin D. “Cooter” Hale is scheduled to start aday hearing April 5 that could strengthen James’ effort to shut down the NRA. James has urged Hale to either appoint a trustee to run the NRA or throw out its bankruptcy case, which would make it easier for her to seize the group’s assets if she prevails in her New York lawsuit.
Matthew Bruckner, an associate professor of law at Howard University, says that courts are inclined to comply with requests to appoint an independent examiner in cases like the NRA’s, where the assets in question exceed $5 million. What’s more, in the NRA’s case the court is likely to give weight to the fact that the request is coming from a board member with Journey’s background, he added.