United States v. Alvarez
On July 23, 2007, Xavier Alvarez, a member of the Three Valley’s Water District Board of Directors, attended a joint meeting with the Walnut Valley Water District Board. Alvarez was invited to speak publicly about himself and in his speech stated, “I’m a retired marine of 25 years. I retired in the year 2001. Back in 1987, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.” However, Alvarez’s statement was false and had never received the award, or any other military decoration. In fact, he had never even served in the United States Armed Forces. His statement violated the Stolen Valor Act of 2005, which made it a criminal act to falsely claim receipt of military medals or decorations awarded by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States. Alvarez was charged in the Central District of California with two counts in violation of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005. Alvarez, unhappy with his conviction, stated the Act was in violation of his First Amendment right of free speech and moved to have the counts dismissed. The District Court denied Alvarez’s request. Alvarez then pleaded guilty but evoked his right to appeal. The appeal was brought to the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where the ruling was reversed under strict scrutiny, claiming that the Supreme Court “had never held that the government prohibit speech simply because it is knowingly false and that some knowingly false speech could have affirmative constitutional value.” Chief Judge Alex Kozinski agreed, saying that a ruling against Mr. Alvarez would be “terrifying,” as it would allow “the truth police” to censor “the white lies, exaggerations and deceptions that are an integral part of human intercourse”(Liptak) The government then appealed the Court of Appeals’ decision. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., urging justices to hear the case argued that Congress was entitled “to guard against dilution of the reputation and meaning of the medals… The law...
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