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First Amendment Ruling from the Supreme Court

June 28th, 2012 by Alicia Calzada and tagged , , , ,

Though the attention of the nation today is focused on the Supreme Court’s Health Care ruling, it should not be missed that the justices released an important First Amendment decision, striking down the Stolen Valor Act by a vote of 6-3. The Act made it illegal to lie about receiving a medal or military decoration. The bottom line appears to be that “falsity alone may not suffice to bring the speech outside the First Amendment.”

You can read about the decision here: http://www.scotusblog.com/2012/06/court-holds-stolen-valor-act-unconstitutional-dismisses-first-american-financial-v-edwards/

Those arguing for the law to be upheld said that false speech had no value and therefore should not be protected by the First Amendment.

The NPPA was part of a coalition of 24 news media organizations that signed on to an amicus brief arguing that the Act would make the government the arbiter of truth and allowing punishment for false speech would eviscerate press freedom.

The brief can be found here: http://www.rcfp.org/browse-media-law-resources/briefs-comments/united-states-v-alvarez

Supporting the notion that the most appropriate way to fight disagreeable speech is with more speech, and in the marketplace of ideas, the court said:

The Government has not shown, and cannot show, why counterspeech would not suffice to achieve its interest. The facts of this case indicate that the dynamics of free speech, of counterspeech, of refutation, can overcome the lie. Respondent lied at a public meeting. Even before the FBI began investigating him for his false statements “Alvarez was perceived as a phony.”  Once the lie was made public, he wasridiculed online, his actions were reported in the press, and a fellow board member called for his resignation. There is good reason to believe that a similar fate would befallother false claimants.

The entire decision can be read at this link: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/11pdf/11-210d4e9.pdf

 

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