The First Amendment Coalition has filed an amicus brief in a US Supreme Court case, United States v. Alvarez, that will test the limits of free speech protection for false speech. FAC’s brief was written by lawyers Gary Bostwick, Jean-Paul Jassy and Kevin Vick of LA law firm Bostwick & Jassy, LLP.
The Alvarez case concerns a local politician in Southern California who was prosecuted under an obscure federal law, the Stolen Valor Act, which makes it a crime to falsely claim to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Alvarez’s conviction was overturned by the Ninth Circuit federal court of appeals on First Amendment grounds.
The Supreme Court’s prior decisions in the areas of libel and elsewhere have extended protection to some false speech as a prophylactic measure, needed to assure adequate First Amendment protection for true speech. The Justice Department contends that First Amendment protection for false speech should be narrowly limited to those areas.
FAC’s brief argues that the Court should resist the government’s invitation to carve out a new category of non-protected speech under the First Amendment. FAC also points out that the infamous Sedition Act of 1798, which criminalized “false and malicious writings” against the federal government, would survive First Amendment scrutiny under the test urged by the Justice Department.
Here’s the Court of Appeals decision in US v. Alvarez.