In this April 26, 2019, file photo, Nation Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre speaks at the association's Institute for Legislative Action Leadership Forum at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Credit: Michael Conroy / AP

Wayne LaPierre runs the National Rifle Association as his personal kingdom, overriding checks and balances and making critical decisions about the gun group’s future without consulting or informing its board, a director who is also a Kansas judge testified Tuesday.

Any efforts to challenge LaPierre’s decisions and empower the association’s 76-member governing board are “essentially nonexistent,” Phillip Journey, a family court judge in Wichita and member of the board, said at a bankruptcy trial.

“It essentially operates as a kingdom rather than a corporation,” Journey said of the NRA. “Wayne’s kingdom.”

LaPierre’s long tenure atop the association is under attack in a bankruptcy case filed in Dallas. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Harlin D. “Cooter” Hale is holding a trial to decide whether to appoint a trustee to run the NRA while it’s in bankruptcy, or throw the case out, as New York Attorney General Letitia James has requested.

Hale will also consider Journey’s request for a so-called examiner to look into allegations of financial impropriety leveled against LaPierre and other senior association officers. Journey testified that hundreds of NRA members have donated money to help with court costs.

Journey rejoined the board of directors last year after being off the governing body for about 25 years, he said. He returned to an organization that he didn’t recognize, he said.

“All of the safety switches in corporate governance needed to be turned back on,” he said. “They were off.”

LaPierre put the gun rights group into bankruptcy a few months after James filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the organization. LaPierre said in court last week that the bankruptcy was necessary to get a “fair legal playing field.”

James’s lawsuit in New York seeks to dismantle the NRA and redistribute its $200 million worth of assets to other nonprofits. Should Hale dismiss the bankruptcy, James would have an easier time seizing those assets if she wins her lawsuit, which may not come to trial until next year, according to testimony.

Story by Steven Church and Neil Weinberg.

(Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is a donor to candidates and groups that support gun control, including Everytown for Gun Safety.)