June 28, 2012

The "Stolen Valor" case — United States v. Alvarez.

From the SCOTUSblog live blog this morning in the Supreme Court:
In Alvarez, the Ninth Circuit is affirmed. Per Kennedy. His opinion is for a plurality.

The statute violates the First Amendment. Breyer and Kagan concur and conclude that the Act as presently drafted fails First Amendment scrutiny. So Congress probably could rewrite it.

"Lying was his habit" is how the opinion begins.

Alito, Scalia, and Thomas dissent.
Here's the opinion PDF.

31 comments:

Lyssa said...

That's BS. I don't understand how fraud is protected speech.

BarryD said...

This is another case where a decision either way wouldn't have been shocking, really.

What is the "man bites dog" story is that the 9th Circuit was affirmed.

Tibore said...

I hate to admit it, but I think many could see that coming.

Not that I agree with the Court. On the contrary, I agree with Lyssa: It's fraud. How's that protected? But, the high court has spoken. It's time to see what their objection is and work around it. SCOTUSBlog noted that the opinion leaves room for Congress to make a different law, so it's not like the concept is dead. Just this particular implementation of it.

BarryD said...

"I don't understand how fraud is protected speech."

It isn't. The question is, "is lying on your resume, fraud?" I can see how it could be, or not. But if it IS held to be fraud, a lot of people are screwed.

Claiming military medals won by people who have risked, and sometimes lost, their lives, is really scummy. I find it offensive, as do many other people. However, is it "fraud"? Tough call.

SGT Ted said...

They are inviting street justice with this ruling.

SGT Ted said...

People claim to be vets to receive both monetary and non-monatary benefits from their communities.

How could it NOT be fraud?

edutcher said...

A lot of military people went through Hell for their honors and the courts won't even protect them.

Well, maybe SCOTUS can get the Tahleebahn to protect them when Al Qaeda wants to blow them up.

phx said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Skyler said...

I still think they should have argued Stolen Valor as a property law case, not a first amendment speech case.

An award is like a license from the government to possess an honor.

Just as you can't fraudulently claim to have an alcohol license, you shouldn't be able to claim the honor given as a property.

As a free speech case, it was bound to lose.

Skyler said...

Did I ever tell you about how I won the medal of honor at the battle of the bulge?

Skyler said...

Maybe we should rearrange the court to have 19 Justices.

Carol said...

For crying out loud, if the lie was part of a scheme to defraud, and someone else got screwed out of something because of it, fraud itself is still a crime and a tort.

This law just seemed like legislative grandstanding. I'm sure the legislators played it for all it was worth in their re-election campaigns.

The Drill SGT said...

Carol said...
For crying out loud, if the lie was part of a scheme to defraud, and someone else got screwed out of something because of it, fraud itself is still a crime and a tort.


Though I'm a combat vet and support the Stolen Valor Law, I get a chuckle about your fraud argument and getting screwed.

I'm not sure that many guys want, "I love you, and I'll still respect you in the morning" to be put to the same fraud tort test :)

PS: I'm happily married

Cedarford said...

SGT Ted said...
They are inviting street justice with this ruling.
===================
Agree. If I was on a jury, I would not convict someone that administered a good beatdown to one of these stolen valor jerks.

If I was a witness to a beatdown, I would not try to stop it and if later questioned by authorities.."I saw nothing..I don't remember what anyone looked like. One guy might have been tall and black...no...on second thought, the guy was possibly a short Asian..."

hombre said...

' The question is, "is lying on your resume, fraud?"'

Gee, I don't know. Could lying on your resume possibly be intended to produce economic gain? LOL

raf said...

So does this mean that it is okay to impersonate a police officer as long as you don't try to arrest anyone? I mean, if you are just trying to lend credibility to your resume or pick up chicks?

The Drill SGT said...

raf said...
So does this mean that it is okay to impersonate a police officer


a uniform is a uniform. a badge is a badge. Jump wings is a shield

so what if your behavior impunges the reputation of others. Free speech trumps all

BarryD said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BarryD said...

"Gee, I don't know. Could lying on your resume possibly be intended to produce economic gain? LOL"

Has it ever been prosecuted as fraud?

There have been some pretty high-profile stories in some quarters, but I don't know of any charges being filed.

Emotionally, I'm with all of you who think this is despicable, "invites street justice", etc. But I have something going on besides emotional reactions.

Is thinking so rare, even when we're talking about as dryly intellectual a subject as Constitutional Law?

phx is right: fraud is fraud. There are laws prohibiting it. I can't argue that speech that doesn't violate any of these laws isn't protected 1st Amendment speech, even if it's revolting. This law targeted speech that we consider offensive, not monetary gain obtained by fraud.

Again, if there is fraud (i.e. monetary gain), prosecute that. Note that a false claim of having received a military honor, if it meets the criteria for fraud, can still be prosecuted as fraud. This ruling doesn't change that.

The Drill SGT said...

pretend to be a lawyer, a Doc, a plumber or a Cop and see how long your free speech rights last

some guilds are stronger than others. The Military Guild is weak in tort lawfare

Sigivald said...

Sounds right.

Given that the Act as it was written sure seemed to make actors wearing accurate military costume into criminals for wearing medals they did not "deserve", how else could it have gone?

(Or even worse, the case of some kid wearing Grandpa's old uniform in tribute - better strip it of his decorations, kid, or you're in big legal trouble!)

I agree with the court in the specific here, as well - merely lying about yourself, while "fraud" in the broadest sense, is not a sort of fraud that's ever been criminal in the Common Law, is it?

Normally, as I understand it, criminal or tortious frauds require some sort of damages to someone, rather than merely puffing up the liar's prestige.

It is definitely, as Barry says, "scummy" - but that's not a good argument for a Federal statute.

paul a'barge said...

Good grief. You mean Roberts threw in with the Lib-tard Justices on this one as well?

O.M.G.

Boosh the elder :: gave us Souter
Boosh the junior :: gave us Roberts

Could the Boosh family have F'ed America any worse? No.

Freeman Hunt said...

It's not fraud because the law didn't stipulate that the lie was being made for material benefit.

Freeman Hunt said...

Some of you really want some old tall taler to get a beatdown in the street?

Freeman Hunt said...

Lying for material benefit is already illegal, isn't it?

Blue@9 said...

I would think that whether it's fraud depends on the context. If its done to take money from people ("Buy my book! I won the MoH!), sure. But otherwise its just another species of lie. What if a guy tells a girl, "Sleep with me; I won the MoH"?

BarryD said...

"pretend to be a lawyer, a Doc, a plumber or a Cop and see how long your free speech rights last"

You aren't old enough to remember The Village People, are you?

I don't recall their being arrested, or sued. In fact, the Navy even had them perform, on a carrier deck as I recall (it's been a long time). This was, in fact, funny as hell, on a number of levels... And still is.

BarryD said...

"Lying for material benefit is already illegal, isn't it?"

Of course. It just seems we have more heat, and less light, than usual, here today. Thanks for some light!

Skyler said...

Federal law already exempts wearing of the uniform and medals for the purposes of acting.

The Drill SGT said...

BarryD said...
"pretend to be a lawyer, a Doc, a plumber or a Cop and see how long your free speech rights last"

You aren't old enough to remember The Village People, are you?


I'm old enough to have come back from war before any of those queens danced around the stage. And they didn't really try to pretend they were sailors or cops, etc.

beast said...

Lying about medals OK.Lying about taxes OK.Lying as a cop.OK.Guess that defines the SC as the primary supporter of liars in the country.