A federal judge has kicked a high-profile attorney for the National Rifle Association off a case the gun group brought against its longtime insurance partner after The Trace reported the attorney had made a false claim in a filing.
Judge Liam O’Grady castigated the lawyer, William A. Brewer III, at a proceeding in an Eastern District of Virginia courtroom on Thursday morning before barring Brewer from appearing before his court. O’Grady had summoned Brewer to explain himself after The Trace revealed in August that Brewer’s application to represent the NRA omitted prior accusations of misconduct.
Before the gun group tapped William A. Brewer III for a pair of high-stakes legal battles, he was fined for attempting to improperly influence potential jurors and witnesses in Texas.
The Virginia-based NRA is suing insurance brokerage Lockton Affinity for breach of contract over Lockton’s pledge, in a settlement with the state of New York, to stop working with the NRA. New York regulators ruled in May that Carry Guard, an insurance plan sold to NRA members to cover legal costs stemming from shootings, violated state laws against insuring intentional acts of wrongdoing and was being marketed without a license by the NRA. Lockton originally developed and administered Carry Guard on behalf of the NRA.
The NRA claims that Lockton illegally ended their long business relationship and failed to perform due diligence when developing and launching Carry Guard. The gun group hired Brewer to press its case.
Because Brewer is a member of the bar in Texas and New York but not Virginia, he had to submit what’s called a “pro hac vice” application to the court to appear on the NRA’s behalf in this case. In that application, Brewer claimed he had never been reprimanded or disciplined for his behavior. But in 2016, a Texas judge fined him $177,000 for allegedly attempting to tamper with potential witnesses and jurors in a wrongful death suit. The fine was upheld on appeal, though Brewer has appealed the penalty to Texas Supreme Court.
“These are very serious allegations,” Judge O’Grady said Thursday. “Had I known about [them], I would not have signed the pro hac vice application and would not have admitted Mr. Brewer.”
Brewer’s dismissal is a headache for the NRA as it fights to safeguard its ability to sell insurance products to its members, a significant source of revenue for the group. Carry Guard and other NRA insurance products are drawing more regulatory scrutiny: Just this week, the state of California issued a cease-and-desist letter demanding that the NRA stop selling Carry Guard in the state.
Addressing the judge on Thursday morning, Brewer apologized for being “a burden to the court.” He said he thought the application only referred to “final matters,” not those on appeal, when it asked about past discipline.
“Did you not read the statement?” Judge O’Grady asked in response. “How could you read it any other way?”
Brewer told The Trace that his firm will continue to represent the NRA against Lockton, and that he will “review his options” for responding to O’Grady’s revocation.
The NRA’s general counsel, John Frazer, was in the courtroom during the proceedings. When approached after the session, he declined to comment.