Court: Stolen Valor Act Unconstitutional March 24, 2011 "Lying is Protected Free Speech"" PASADENA -- The Stolen Valor Act, under which former water board member Xavier Alvarez was fined and ordered to perform community service in 2007, was upheld as being unconstitutional. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an earlier ruling determining that a law barring people from lying about their military heroics was a violation of free speech. The earlier ruling, which was made by three of the court's members in August, invalidated the 2006 act by Congress. Alvarez, a Pomona resident and then a member of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board, pleaded guilty in July 2008 to falsely saying he had won the Medal of Honor. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to three years of probation, which required community service. Alvarez is currently at Centinela State Prison in Imperial County for defrauding the water district after being convicted of registering an ex-wife for health benefits with the district in 2007. Jonathan Libby, Alvarez's public defender, said, "It affirms what I believe to be the right decision," and noted that Chief Judge Alex Kozinski's written opinion was "quite compelling." "I think Judge Kozinski took a much broader perspective than the original decision," Libby said, adding the judge found "complete First Amendment protection" for lying about oneself. The public defender said he is expecting the case to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. "If the Supreme Court decides to review it, they'll come up with same decision as the 9th Circuit did," Libby said. A military veteran who had attended many of Alvarez's court appearances was upset. "It's terrible," said Juan Rodriguez, 79, a Korean War veteran from Pomona. "What are these people doing, you know? I talked to a lot of guys in the American Legion. What is wrong with our Constitution?" Libby said he did not know whether Alvarez had paid his fine for the conviction but the former water board member had completed his community service. Michael Shapiro, a professor of law at USC, said his original opinion of the case had not changed "but positions have gotten reinforced." Shapiro's earlier position was that Judge Jay S. Bybee took out of context previous court cases and also argued incorrectly that untrue statements fall outside First Amendment protection. He said he felt the Supreme Court would not want to take the case. "I don't think the court is anxious to say yes or no," Shapiro said. "It's not the most sensitive case in the world. But if the court takes it, what is least likely to happen is that the court leaves it as is." U.S. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd declined to comment on whether government lawyers will appeal the decision.