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ASU, UCLA law professors file brief in US Supreme Court

March 12, 2012

Editor's Note: The ASU baseball team will take on the University of California, Los Angeles, in three games March 16-18 in Los Angeles. The women’s softball team will play UCLA in three games April 5-7 in Tempe. Read more about ASU's collaborations with Pac-12 schools.

James Weinstein, Amelia Lewis Professor of Constitutional Law at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, has along with Eugene Volokh, a prominent UCLA law professor and noted free speech expert, filed an amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In United States v. Alvarez, they argue in favor of the constitutionality of the Stolen Valor Act, a law making it a crime to falsely claim that one has been awarded a United States military decoration or medal. The brief, of which Volokh is the principal author and to which Weinstein contributed, urges the Court to hold that, with certain limitations, one does not have a First Amendment right to make a knowingly false statement of fact.

The brief was cited in a recent federal appeals court decision. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a decision issued on Jan. 27, in United States v. Strandlof, upheld the act. Two of the three judges on the panel agreed that lies are not worthy of constitutional protection.

That ruling both refers to Volokh’s and Weinstein’s brief, as well as to Weinstein’s article, “Speech Categorization and the Limits of First Amendment Formalism: Lessons from Nike v. Kasky,” published in the Case Western Reserve Law Review in 2004.

The 10th Circuit is the second federal appellate court to consider the act’s constitutionality. The 9th Circuit previously ruled the act unconstitutional in a separate case. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments arguments in this case on Feb. 22.

Weinstein's areas of academic interest are constitutional law, especially free speech, as well as jurisprudence and legal history.