While Chief Justice Roberts just revoked his own membership to the Federalist Society and dis-invited himself from the G.W. Bush Presidential Library Grand Opening, here, in other news of his imminent ouster, a plurality of CJ Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Ginsburg and Sotomayor today also struck down the Stolen Valor Act, here.

18 Responses to “In Other SCOTUS News — Stolen Valor Act Found Unconstitutional”

  1. Anonymous Air Force Senior Defense Counsel with the initials NM says:

    Roberts, Breyer, and Kagan declare the individual mandate is a permissible tax, but the medicaid expansion violated the constitution by threatening to withold funding from the states.  That’s not the part I thought was at risk… 

  2. Charles Gittins says:

    Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional.  No joke.  How this had to go to the Supremes, I’ll never know.  Bedrock First Amendment content, gang!  Been saying this for years.  You combat lies with truth, not criminal law.  

  3. Anonymous Wisecracker says:

    I knew the Stolen Valor Act was going to get struck down.  I was telling my NAVY SEAL friends after our secret mission into North Korean when we poisoned Kim Jong-il that this Act was just not going to survive Constitutional scrutiny.
     

  4. John Harwood says:

    It seems the clear way to accomplish Congress’ intent is to criminalize a false claim of military awards and medals in order to obtain any good or service the person would not otherwise be entitled to, or to induce another to act on the person’s behalf.  Doesn’t that solve the problem? 

    So that idiot Alvarez who prompted the challenge could stand in the middle of Times Square and tell any passerby about his acts of heroism that resulted in being award the MoH, even though the claims were completely false.  But, if he walked into the VA, Applebys, or a pub and tried to use his (false) status as a MoH recipient to get some government benefit or ply free beers from a bar fly, he’d be in violation of the law.  It’d be a simple fraud, n’est ce pas?

    I’ll disagree in one small regard with Mr. Gittins on this – sometimes, you do need to combat lies with criminal law, when those lies induce action on the part of others, ala Bernie Madoff.

  5. Charlie Gittins says:

    I concur that commission of a fraud against another should be criminalized, and it already is . . . .  I don’t agree  that criminalizing BEiNG a fraud is a federal interest that needs vindication.  Checking whether an individual has been awarded the MOH is simply not that difficult — the MOH Society has a searchable database. 

  6. Mike "No Man" Navarre says:

    I am pretty much with Charlie on this one.  SCOTUS, however, mad ethis case a lot more complicated than it actually was.  I wish all Justices could be as intellectually honest as CJ Roberts when he decides a case the way I think it should come out.

  7. stewie says:

    Fraud already covers this, this was unnecessary and a result of folks trying to politic so that they can be seen as more patriotic than others (we love the troops MORE).

  8. Lieber says:

    Agreed that it was an unnecessary law.  But some of you are oversimplifying things.  Knowing false statements are not necessarily protected by the First Amendment.  (Some take the view that no knowing false statements are protected, but the current precedent appears to be that only a subset of false statements do not have First Amendment protection.  The knowing part is what a lot of people miss.  If you’re a flat-earther that’s clearly Constitutionally protected.  But if you know (and it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt that you know it) that the earth is round and still falsely claim that it is flat…that statement, hypothetically, may not be Constitutionally protected in some circumstances.) 

    Further, a clear majority of the SC indicated that a more tightly written statute may indeed pass Constitutional muster.  (Agreed that you could probably get there with existing fraud statutes in many circumstances…but not all; for example: existing statutes probably would not cover a scenario where someone running for public office falsely claims military service and/or decorations, but a rewrite of the SVA may be able to do so. 

  9. soonergrunt says:

    I suspect that there are few subjects on which Col. Gittens and I would agree, but this is one of them.
    As long as lying about military awards and medals was a crime, every single E-3 in every service on pass/liberty/leave was at risk of offending walking into a bar and seeing a pretty girl.
    @No Man, 0843: lol.

  10. Christopher Mathews says:

    I always thought the best penalty would be for the local gendarmes to drop the offender off at the nearest VFW or American Legion hall.

  11. NW says:

    I’ll be the devil’s advocate and say I completely agree with Alito’s dissent.  Frame the issue this way:  Would George Washington believe that the First Amendment was intended to protect those who would hold themselves out as military heroes when they are not?  As Alito notes, our first commander-in-chief said those soldiers who had the insolence to assume a badge they were not worthy of would severly punished.  I highly doubt Founder Washington would have any qualms with the Stolen Valor Act punishing all frauds, soldier or civilian.  What value is there to protecting false statements of military valor?  How is this possibly a class of speech our Founders intended to protect under the First Amendment?  Having attended a CMOH Society Convention as a young captain and having the honor to sit in the presence of so many heroes years ago, I think it’s a disgrace that the First Amendment should be interpreted to prevent Congress from making it a misdemeanor for some fraud to hold himself out as a MOH recipient.  This is not the speech that the First Amendment was intended to protect.

  12. stewie says:

    Washington may have been a “Founder” in the sense of being a commander and President, but he didn’t exactly have a whole lot to do with drafting the Constitution. So his views don’t seem particularly relevant, and I don’t think I want Supreme Court Justices wearing bracelets that say WWGWD?

    What value is there to protecting false statements of being a police officer to gain admiration, or a doctor, or a Priest?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I find the George Washington argument to be a red herring.  His statement was to his troops, not to the nation of civilians.  And we DO, today, punish servicemembers who wear false medals.  It’s under Article 134 and punishable by a BCD and 6 months confinement.  This is no different that the many other additional restrictions we place on our military.  The charge is necessary to preserve good order and discipline, a concern that does not exist with civilians.

  14. Tom Booker says:

    Subsection (a) of the statute (18 U.S.C. 704[a]) is still good law.  It is still a crime for any person to buy or wear a military decoration unless authorized “under regulations made pursuant to law”, and this is something that U.S. Attorneys could prosecute in District Court (perhaps we shouldn’t hold our breath).  There is also, as Anonymous points out, the “description of how the General Article might be violated” in Paragraph 113 of the Manual.  All the Stolen Valor Act did was prohibit one from crowing about the unauthorized medal one was wearing.  I agree with both Stewie (more of the stomach-turning chest thumping from super patriots) and Mr. Gittins on this one.

  15. Tom Booker says:

    Sorry to continue this string.  From my soapbox, the reason that many if not most of us don the uniform in the first place is to protect, among other things, the free speech at issue in the Alvarez decision.  And in a happy coincidence, the spam protection sum here is the same as that Article in the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that promotes a free press.  Nicely done, Col Sullivan.

  16. Michael Lowrey says:

    There are ways that we as a society can deal with issues besides criminal law. To address the example that Lieber brought up about someone running for public office that’s falsely claiming military service and/or decorations, there’s a simple solution: let the local press know about it. 

  17. NW says:

    @stewie – George Washington was the President of the Constitutional Convention.  While the 1st Amendment came later, I think it’s too much to say that GW didn’t exactly do a lot with the drafting of the Constitution.  To all the other comments, I respectfully maintain my dissent.

  18. stewie says:

    It was a ceremonial role, he did absolutely nothing as far as the writing of it, nor did he participate in the debates. So, no he had nothing to do with the drafting of it, or the addition of amendments. The only purpose he served was that he wanted a strong central government and everyone respected him so he helped keep things together.