Sunday, August 26, 2012

American Legion Convention 2012 - Day 3 (Saturday)

Saturday was a busy day for the commissions and committees.  Mark Seavey spoke about Stolen Valor before the Legislative Commission.  As long as I've known Mark I've never heard him speak.  He more than knocked it out of the park on Saturday morning.

Mark Seavey speaking about Stolen Valor to American Legion Legislative Commission

Mark talked about the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 and why it was struck down by the Supreme Court.  He began by presenting the cases of Xavier Alvarez and Rick Duncan.  In the case of Xavier Alvarez the Ninth Circuit overturned the case.  Mark then discussed the Stolen Valor case of Rick Duncan (also known by many other alias names).  The Tenth Circuit upheld the case against Mr. Duncan. 

Because the two courts disagreed on the Stolen Valor Act the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from both sides in order to make a ruling.  In the end the Supreme Court ruled the Act to be unconstitutional.  It takes five judges to "win".  In the case of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 two of the judges Concurred it was constitutional. 

Information in Italics below is from Mark Seavey's Power Point presentation:

Concurrence: Two Justices, Justice Bryer joined by Justice Kagan, a less restrictive measure might pass Constitutional muster.

[A] more finely tailored statute might, as other kinds of statues prohibiting false factual statements have done, insist upon a showing that the false statement caused specific harm or at least was material, or focus its coverage on lies most likely to be harmful or on contexts where such lies are most likely to cause harm.
Three dissented that it was not. 

Dissent: Three Justices, Justice Alito writing for Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia, the existing Stolen Valor Act fell within acceptable constitutional parameters.

The statute reaches only knowingly false statements about hard facts directly within a speaker's personal knowledge.  These lies have no value in and of themselves, and proscribing them does not chill any valuable speech.  By holding that the First Amendment nevertheless shields these lies, the Court breaks sharply from a long line of cases recognizing that the right to free speech does not protect false factual statements that inflict real harm and serve no legitimate interest.

The other four judges gave opinions. 

Majority Opinion: Four Justices, Justice Kennedy writing for Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Sotomayor, Justice Ginsburg, all efforts to curtail these lies would likely be unconstitutional.

When content-based speech regulation is in question, however, exacting scrutiny is required.  Statutes suppressing or restricting speech must be judged by the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment.  By this measure, the statutory provisions under which respondent was convicted must be held invalid, and his conviction must be set aside.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling against the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 Mark presented to us new bills that are before the House and Senate that have been written based on the ruling and Opinions of the Supreme Court Justices.  Hopefully a new bill will be passed soon and will plug the "holes" from the act of 2005.

Heck Bill in House:  HR 1775, Stolen Valor Act of 2011, 107 Cosponsors.

“I believe that we must defend the valor of those who have served our country, but also that we must protect the very liberties for which our servicemen and women sacrificed. [The bill] would achieve both objectives, and Congress should move quickly to pass this legislation.”

Brown Bill in Senate: S. 1728, Companion to HR 1775, 33 Cosponsors.

“It is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions that they have not earned. We need to ensure that no one can benefit from making false claims and steal the true valor of the courageous servicemen and women who selflessly defended our freedom.”

Webb Bill in Senate: S3772, Military Service Integrity Act of 2012, 52 Cosponsors.

 “Profiting from the misrepresentation of military service or the award of a decoration or medal for personal gain undermines the value of service and is offensive to all who have stepped forward to serve our country in uniform.

Mark then discussed the difference between the bills:

Heck & Brown Bills:  (“Anything of Value”)

Whoever, with intent to obtain anything of value, knowingly makes a misrepresentation regarding his or her military service, shall--

`(1) if the misrepresentation is that such individual served in a combat zone, served in a special operations force, or was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both…

Webb Bill:  (“Tangible Benefit”, adds purchase or manufacture language)

Whoever knowingly purchases, attempts to purchase, solicits for purchase, mails, ships, imports, exports, produces blank certificates of receipt for, manufactures, sells, attempts to sell, advertises for sale, trades, barters, or exchanges for anything of value any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 6 months, or both.

“Tangible Benefit” defined as:  Fed, State or Local Gov’t Benefit; Employment or professional advancement; financial remuneration; effect the outcome of criminal or civil court proceeding; impact personal credibility in a political campaign.

Before he took questions, Mark presented a Resolution on Stolen Valor that the American Legion will consider adopting this week.  Since it hasn't been adopted yet I won't share it here in this post.

Later in the day I was invited to a reception held for the American Legion Legislative Commission.  Mark introduced me to some great Americans.  I had a very nice time.

Legislative Commission Reception

Legislative Commission Reception

Caroline and Mark Seavey invited one of Mark's co-workers from the American Legion DC office and me to their home for dinner.  It was a wonderful respite from the convention mania. 

Caroline, Mosby and Fenway picked us up at the hotel.  I've been wanting to meet Mosby and Fenway forever!!!

Caroline and Mosby

Mark and Fenway

We enjoyed grilled blue cheese stuffed hamburgers and homemade sweet potato fries.  It was so delicious.  Equally as much, I enjoyed the time we spent relaxing and visiting on their deck.

Caroline, Mark and Ian

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