Patt Morrison for March 22, 2011

Should it be a crime to lie about winning a Congressional Medal of Honor?

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London street art.

In 2005 Congress passed the Stolen Valor Act that would make it a crime punishable by up to a year in jail to falsely claim to have received high military decorations. In 2007 Xavier Alvarez made some bizarre proclamations at a public meeting of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District, including being awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor (he also talked about playing hockey for the Detroit Red Wings). Alvarez never served in the Marine Corps, as he boasted, and he never won the Medal of Honor, and as a result of his lies he was successfully prosecuted under the Stolen Valor Act. Last year the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Alvarez’s jail sentence and yesterday the court went further in refusing to reconsider its ruling and deem the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional. The Chief Judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit, Judge Alex Kozinski, summed up his ruling this way: “Saints may always tell the truth, but for mortals living means lying.” Is lying a form of constitutionally protected free speech?

Guests:

Eugene Volokh, professor of law at the UCLA School of Law where he teaches free speech law, criminal law and tort law

Jonathan Turley professor of Public Interest Law, George Washington University Law School


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