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People wait to enter outside the US Supreme Court March 21, 2011 in Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the case of a man from Pomona who lied about receiving the Medal of Honor. The justices appear to be focused on the harm of lying.
Xavier Alvarez broke a federal law, the Stolen Valor Act, when he lied about receiving the Medal of Honor. But Sonia Sotomayor echoed several justices when she asked, “What’s the harm here?”
That's the argument made by Deputy Federal Public Defender Jonathan Libby. He said people are entitled to be upset by false claims, but are not necessarily hurt by them.
"There needs to be harm associated with the lie in order for it to be unprotected under the First Amendment. Here there was no harm as a result of what Mr. Alvarez said," Libby said.
Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said the harm was the erosion of the value of the medal.
But, Chief Justice John Roberts asked, where do you stop with such laws? Some justices wondered whether the First Amendment protects lying about earning a high school diploma, or stretching the truth on a date or in a political campaign. Verrilli insisted the Stolen Valor Act was narrowly drawn. The high court will decide the case later this year.