The Supreme Court Legalizes Lying
This is another of the decision handed down by the Supreme Court today.
In United States v. Alvarez, a highly anticipated First Amendment case with a quirky fact pattern, the Court held in a vote of six to three that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. Justice Kennedy announced the opinion for a plurality of the Court (he was joined by the Chief Justice as well as Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor). Justices Breyer and Kagan concurred, suggesting that if Congress re-enacted the law with additional limitations, it might be constitutional.
The Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. § 704, makes it a federal crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal, punishable by up to a year in prison if the offense involved the military’s highest honors. In this case Xavier Alvarez, recently elected to the Board of Directors of the Three Valley Water District in southern California, announced to his colleagues – for no apparent reason – that he had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor and that he had been wounded during active duty as a United States Marine. In reality, Alvarez had never even served in the military. He was prosecuted and pled guilty to one count of violating the Stolen Valor Act, but reserved his right to challenge the constitutionality of the statute.
The key issue is whether the First Amendment protects false statements of fact – made without any apparent intent to defraud or gain anything – and if so, what level of protection they deserve. … Six Justices agreed that some protection was warranted, but disagreed as to the amount, and three Justices believe that the First Amendment does not protect such lies at all.
But again, six justices agree that the First Amendment protects “false statements of fact.” Excuse me but I think that’s more commonly known as lying.
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