United States v. Alvarez

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: First Amendment
  • Date Filed: June 28, 2012
  • Case #: 11-210
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Kennedy announced the Court's judgment and delivered an opinion that Roberts, C.J., and Ginsburg and Sotomayor, JJ., joined. Breyer, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment that Kagan, J., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion that Scalia and Thomas, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Stolen Valor Act, which prohibits falsely claiming to have received a military award, violates the First Amendment because falsity alone is insufficient to bring speech outside of its protection.

During a public meeting, Respondent falsely claimed to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. He was convicted of violating the Stolen Valor Act (Act), which prohibits falsely claiming to have received military awards authorized by Congress, and he challenged his conviction, claiming the Act violated the First Amendment since it suppresses speech based on content. The U.S. District Court rejected his First Amendment claim, but the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed.

On appeal, Petitioner argued that the Act is necessary to protect the Medal of Honor’s integrity and that false statements “have no First Amendment value in themselves” but the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Ninth Circuit and held that falsity alone is insufficient to bring speech outside the protection of the First Amendment. The Court said that while the Government’s goals were compelling, they neither satisfied the exacting scrutiny demanded by content-based restrictions to speech due to the Act’s broad scope, nor were they the least restrictive means available to achieve the Government’s stated goal.

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