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US Supreme Court rules on Stolen Valor Act case

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While the health care decision was the ruling most people were waiting to hear, the justices also issued decisions in two other cases Thursday. The nation’s highest court found the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional.

The justices released United States v. Alvarez, 11-210, regarding the Stolen Valor Act, finding it infringes upon speech protected by the First Amendment. A direct causal link between the restriction imposed and the injury to be prevented hasn’t been shown in this case, the court ruled.

The case involves Xavier Alvarez, who lied when telling people he held the Congressional Medal of Honor. His lie violates the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 and he was indicted under the Act in California. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held the Act was invalid under the First Amendment. This year, after certiorari was granted, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in an unrelated case found the Act to be constitutional.

“Statutes suppressing or restricting speech must be judged by the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment. By this measure, the statutory provisions under which respondent was convicted must be held invalid, and his conviction must be set aside,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, who delivered the court opinion.

“Were the Court to hold that the interest in truthful discourse alone is sufficient to sustain a ban on speech, absent any evidence that the speech was used to gain a material advantage, it would give government a broad censorial power unprecedented in this Court’s cases or in our constitutional tradition. The mere potential for the exercise of that power casts a chill, a chill the First Amendment cannot permit if free speech, thought, and discourse are to remain a foundation of our freedom.”

Justice Stephen Breyer in his concurring opinion, which Justice Elena Kagan joined, noted that Congress may be able to finely tailor the statute.

Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas joined Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent.

“By holding that the First Amendment nevertheless shields these lies, the Court breaks sharply from a long line of cases recognizing that the right to free speech does not protect false factual statements that inflict real harm and serve no legitimate interest. I would adhere to that principle and would thus uphold the constitutionality of this valuable law,” Alito wrote in his dissent.

The Supreme Court also dismissed First American Financial Corp. v. Edwards, 10-708, which dealt with certain lawsuits under the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act.

 

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  1. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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