AG asks Supreme Court to back law against false military claims

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold a federal law that makes it a crime to falsely claim to have received military awards.

The federal Stolen Valor Act makes it a crime to falsely claim to be the recipient of military decorations or medals. A prosecution under the federal law in California led to a legal dispute over the law’s constitutionality.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the law is an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.

Federal prosecutors are appealing the court’s ruling, and Schmidt has joined in a legal brief, along with attorneys general from 19 other states, in backing the federal government and asking the Supreme Court to uphold the law.

“Many states, including Kansas, have long ago decided that those who falsely claim military honors diminish those whose exemplary service has properly been acknowledged,” Schmidt said. “It’s appropriate to prevent such utterly false and misleading claims, and the Supreme Court’s decision may have implications for Kansas state law as well.”

Kansas state law, similar to the federal Stolen Valor Act, makes it a misdemeanor to falsely represent oneself to be a member of a veteran’s organization. The Kansas statute is K.S.A. 21-6410, and it was first enacted in 1969.

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide the Stolen Valor case this term, with oral argument in the case likely in February or March 2012, and a decision by June. The case is United States v. Alvarez.

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