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The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press lauded the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling today striking down the Stolen Valor Act as unconstitutional. Ruling in U.S. v. Alvarez, the Court found that the Act – which makes it a criminal offense to lie about military honors – violates the First Amendment.
“Once again, the Supreme Court has recognized that the marketplace of ideas is the appropriate place to regulate obnoxious and offense speech,” said Reporters Committee Executive Director Lucy A. Dalglish. “While Mr. Alvarez clearly is a habitual liar, we’re pleased the Court resisted the temptation to uphold a content-based restriction on a new category of speech.
“Upholding this law would have opened the door to efforts by lawmakers to develop a list of subjects for which false speech would be punishable,” Dalglish said. “Those lists probably would have been put forward by special interests who believe false speech about them was more offensive than false speech about others. There are ample vehicles to punish those whose false speech actually damages others, including claims for libel, perjury and fraud.”
Justice Anthony Kennedy’s opinion for the court cited the Reporters Committee’s friend-of-the-court brief for its examples of how public exposure can mitigate a lie and discredit its source, particularly in cases where false claims were made of military heroism.
The Reporters Committee was joined by 23 news organizations in its friend-of-the-court brief, which is available online. The brief was written by Robert Corn-Revere of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
About the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press
Founded in 1970, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press offers free legal support to thousands of working journalists and media lawyers each year. It is a leader in the fight against persistent efforts by government officials to impede the release of public information, whether by withholding documents or threatening reporters with jail. In addition to its 24/7 Legal Defense Hotline, the Reporters Committee conducts cutting-edge legal research, publishes handbooks and guides on media law issues, files frequent friend-of-the-court legal briefs and offers challenging fellowships and internships for young lawyers and journalists. For more information, go to www.rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.
Related Reporters Committee resources:
· Brief: United States v. Alvarez