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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. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

  2. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  3. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  4. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  5. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

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