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Friday, June 29, 2012

SCOTUS Opinion Striking Down Stolen Valor Act

The Supreme Court issued three bad opinions this week, on immigration, health care, and Stolen Valor. Even though they struck down the Stolen Valor Act, they made clear again that lying under oath is perjury and there's no constitutional right to do that. From Justice Kennedy’s plurality opinion: The same point can be made about what the Court has confirmed is the “unquestioned constitutionality of perjury statutes,” both the federal statute, §1623, and its state-law equivalents. United States v. Grayson, 438 U. S. 41, 54 (1978). See also Konigsberg v. State Bar of Cal., 366 U. S. 36, 51, n. 10 (1961). It is not simply because perjured statements are false that they lack First Amendment protection. Perjured testimony “is at war with justice” because it can cause a court to render a “judgment not resting on truth.” In re Michael, 326 U. S. 224, 227 (1945). Perjury undermines the function and province of the law and threatens the integrity of judgments that are the basis of the legal system. See United States v. Dunnigan, 507 U. S. 87, 97 (1993) (“To uphold the integrity of our trial system . . . the constitutionality of perjury statutes is unquestioned”). Unlike speech in other contexts, testi- mony under oath has the formality and gravity necessary to remind the witness that his or her statements will be the basis for official governmental action, action that often affects the rights and liberties of others. Sworn testimony is quite distinct from lies not spoken under oath and simply intended to puff up oneself. Meanwhile, the liars keep at it. Justice Alito mentioned some notable cases of prominent people lying about receiving the Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, etc. : Notorious cases brought to Congress’ attention included the case of a judge who falsely claimed to have been awarded two Medals of Honor and displayed counterfeit medals in his courtroom; a television network’s military consultant who falsely claimed that he had received the Silver Star....

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