Tenth Circuit Upholds Stolen Valor Act

From today’s United States v. Strandlof (10th Cir. Jan. 27, 2012):

As the Supreme Court has observed time and again, false statements of fact do not enjoy constitutional protection, except to the extent necessary to protect more valuable speech. Under this principle, the Stolen Valor Act does not impinge on or chill protected speech, and therefore does not offend the First Amendment.

One judge dissents from the panel decision, reasoning:

The majority holds that such statements — at least when made knowingly and with an intent to deceive — are categorically beyond the protective universe of the First Amendment. In contrast, I believe that the First Amendment generally accords protection to such false statements of fact. Consequently, because it is a content-based restriction on speech, the Stolen Valor Act must satisfy strict scrutiny. This it cannot do.

The Supreme Court will have the last word on this, when it decides the same question this Term in United States v. Alvarez; but I suspect that the Tenth Circuit judges’ opinions in Strandlof, which are long and detailed, will be considered carefully by the Court.

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