Ninth Circuit Declares Open Season on False Claims of Valor

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Here’s a report on the Ninth Circuit ruling from Josh Gerstein’s Under the Radar blog. Click here for the ruling.

The case involved the prosecution of a California politician, who claimed he was a former marine and had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Impressive distinctions, to be sure, but also not true, according to the ruling.

The Ninth Circuit majority had little patience for the politician’s “offensive untruths,” but it ruled that the Constitution presumptively protects “all speech, including false statements.”

Regulations against false speech must be crafted narrowly, to protect against direct and significant harm, the court held. The Stolen Valor Act, in short, does not pass muster, according to the court.

Judge Jay Bybee wrote a spirited dissent. “The Supreme Court has told us consistently that the general rule is that false statements of fact are unprotected and has carved out certain limited exceptions,” he wrote.

Gerstein notes that today’s ruling can not be labeled as the typical product of the “far-out liberal” 9th Circuit. Indeed, all three judges on the panel were Republican appointees — two were appointed by George W. Bush and the other by Bush senior. 

From the Wall Street Journal