December 9, 2011
Alexandria, Va. (December 9, 2011) — Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and 24 other military and veterans service organizations filed a brief in the United States Supreme Court seeking to overturn an appellate court decision finding the Stolen Valor Act unconstitutional. United States v. Alvarez, U.S. Sup. Ct. No. 11-210. The Stolen Valor Act, 18 U.S.C. §704, makes it a crime for individuals to falsely claim they have been awarded any military decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces.
In this case, Xavier Alvarez falsely declared on several occasions he had been awarded the Medal of Honor. He was convicted on two counts of violating the Stolen Valor Act and was sentenced to three years probation, a fine, and 416 hours of community service. He appealed his conviction to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Court ruled the Stolen Valor Act was “facially invalid” because the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution generally protects false speech, including lying about having earned military decorations and honors.
MOAA’s brief argues the case is not about free speech, but about individuals like Alvarez stealing the goodwill and prestige associated with American military awards for their own benefit. Military veterans earn awards through service, sacrifice, and valor. MOAA believes it is well within Congress’ power to prevent individuals from falsely claiming for themselves the goodwill and acclaim associated with hard-earned military awards and honors.
“It is vitally important to preserve the integrity of the system recognizing military valor and the sacrifices our service members make for their country,” MOAA President Vice Adm. Norb Ryan said. “No one should be allowed to steal what our veterans have rightfully earned through their service and sacrifice.”
MOAA is represented by Michael T. Morley, of the Washington D.C. office of Winston & Strawn LLP, which is generously providing representation to the military and veterans service organizations on a pro bono basis. A decision is expected in the spring of 2012.