Oral argument: Feb. 22, 2012
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Aug. 17, 2010)
Respondent Xavier Alvarez, an elected member of the Three Valleys Water District, lied about receiving a Congressional Medal of Honor during a board meeting. His lie violated the Stolen Valor Act, which Congress enacted to preserve the value of military awards, and he was criminally convicted and sentenced to probation. Alvarez challenged the facial constitutionality of the Act under the First Amendment, and prevailed on appeal. The United States argues that a “breathing space” test should apply because the Act only limits knowingly false factual statements, and that under this test the Act does not violate the First Amendment. Alvarez counters that strict scrutiny should apply because the Act imposes a content-based restriction, and under strict scrutiny, the Act is an unconstitutional restriction of free speech. The ruling in this case may affect the value of military awards, as well as the legal treatment of other false representations.