Supreme Court

Oh, There Was That Other Supreme Court Ruling, Too: Stolen Valor Act Struck Down


Before it began raining broccoli across America this morning, the Supreme Court also ruled on whether it was legal to lie about having received military medals or honors.  It is. Or rather, it is for now, due to the vague wording of the Stolen Valor Act. Tejinder Singh of SCOTUSblog (and is this their moment, or what?) explains:

Justice Kennedy announced a plurality opinion [pdf] – joined by the Chief Justice, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Sotomayor – and concluding that the Stolen Valor Act infringes on protected speech. The plurality reasoned that, with only narrow exceptions, content-based restrictions on speech face strict scrutiny, and are therefore almost always unconstitutional. False statements of fact do not fall within one of these exceptions, and so the Stolen Valor Act can survive strict scrutiny only if it is narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest. The Court concluded that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional because the Government had not shown that the statute is necessary to protect the integrity of the system of military honors – the interest the Government had identified in support of the Act.

Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Kagan, concurred separately, concluding that the Stolen Valor Act, as drafted, violates intermediate scrutiny. These Justices argued that intermediate scrutiny is the appropriate standard because the Government should have some ability to regulate false statements of fact. However, because the statute, as drafted, applies even in family, social, or other private contexts where lies will often cause little harm; it includes few other limits on its scope, and it creates too significant a burden on protected speech. The concurring Justices believe that the Government could achieve its goals in a less burdensome way, and so they too held the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional.  This opinion leaves open the possibility that Congress will re-write the law more narrowly. Three Justices, led by Justice Alito, dissented.

So, Congress can't just pass a law that criminalizes a lie about one's military history in all situations without violating the First Amendment. But the Court says a more narrowly tailored law could possibly survive scrutiny.

NEXT: Biggest Winners Under ObamaCare: For-Prophets?

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  1. can Congress pass a tax on people who lie about military service?

    1. Bill of Attainder. No.

  2. Thank Galt I can put that Army of Occupation medal back on my r?sum

    1. You put medals on your resume? Is that really something people do, because I’ve never even thought to do that?

  3. Hugh Akston|6.28.12 @ 2:34PM|#

    Thank Galt I can put that Army of Occupation medal back on my r?sum?.

    Ppptt! Fuck that! I’m going full out, and making myself commander of SEAL DEVGRU(‘team 6’), note that I personally head-shotted Bin Laden, won not only the Medal of Honor, DSM, and Navy Cross…but also a gold medal in the Pentathalon, and was Hustler’s ‘Porn Star of the Year’, and first man to walk on Mars (*details classified).

    Oh, and a Nobel prize for like, math or something. It helps to broaden the skill-sets/experience a little, I find.

    1. Don’t forget to put down that you are a Supreme Court Justice.

  4. so lying about military service – in a time when the elected class is bending every which way to legalize preferential job treatment for vets in employment – is legal, and no one sees a potential problem with that?

    1. To get a government Veteran’s preference, you have to show a legit DD213. I have no idea if they verify it with the military, but I would be pretty surprised if forging that type of official document was not already a crime.

      1. DD214. And, yes, it would be forgery.

      2. DD214. Us multiple Medal of Honor winners know that.

        1. Damn – that’s why I didn’t get that big Post Office job!

          1. Don’t worry you can still find something at the IRS – I hear they are hiring!

    2. That’s probably an example of what they mean when they say a more narrowly-written law could survive judicial scrutiny.

    3. They said it’s legal to lie about it. They didn’t say it’s legal to commit fraud. There’s kinda a difference.

  5. As a Navy Seal and four-time Medal of Honor winner who personally shot Obama bin Laden, I’m appalled at this decision.


      1. ladies, ladies, please! You’re both ugly.

  6. Maybe I should go throw my Crois de Guerre and Victoria Cross over the fence at the SCT?

    1. True fact: My grandfather has a Croix de Guerre. My AOL name was “cross of war” because I was a) 17 and b) thought it sounded cool.

      1. Then he must have done something seriously, crazy brave that the French noticed. If he was US or UK, I would have hoped someone would have stepped up and gotten props from the home team too.

        I know a current NCO who got a French medal (amongst others) – it took a couple of whiskies and a few hours to get the story out of him.

        1. Who knows what he did at this point. Those old bastards won’t tell you anything.

          1. Then that probably means it was something absolutely insanely brave/traumatic.

            The family hero – DFC at Midway – only made one remark to me ever about his service …everyone, to a man, that he trained with in 1941 was killed.

            I never asked him anything after that.

            1. I had a great uncle who would frequently complain of pain in his shoulder from an old injury. He always had a silly story about how it was injured. After his death, when going through his papers, we found out he was injured at Pearl Harbor trying to get one of the planes off the ground.
              He was a lifer, but never ever talked about WWII or Korea.

  7. I don’t understand how this shit was even thought up as being a crime. At its worst is is false statement on a contract, which can invalidate it, but criminal act I don’t see it.

    Who is the government acting on behalf of with such a law.

    1. A charitable view would say anyone who had been awarded such honors or anyone who might place reliance to their detriment on the representation.

      A less charitable (and more realistic)view would say that this was a feel good, knee-jerk reaction to a series of “hey look at this jack-ass we found claiming he was a DFC winner when he never made it through BCT!” stories that happened to hit the press all at once some years back. Same guys who fake being cops or firefighters, etc., to get lauded, free stuff or chicks.

        1. Ok… “Uncle Sam’s School for Wayward Boys – Fort Benning, Georgia branch”?

  8. I was a hero on the Malabar Front.

    1. I was injured bombing the storage depots at Daiquiri. We came in from the north, below their radar.

      1. A hospital? What is it?

        1. It’s a large building full of sick people, but that’s not important right now.

          Is this some kind of bust?

    2. I used to be an adventurer.

      1. Unitl you got that arrow in your knee.

  9. I was at Serenity Valley.

    1. Battle of Serenity, BP. Besides Zoe here, how many…

  10. Meh, even if it had passed muster, my Alliance Medal Of Freedom was still outside US jurisdiction. I remember it well, being on stage with Han, Luke and the rest.

    1. Chewy got screwed!

  11. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito fighting for maximum individual liberty once again.

    1. Turd dropped….mission complete, returning to Troll Base Alpha.

      1. You can always tell the ones who hate “maximum individual liberty”.

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