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United States v. Alvarez as the Least Problematic Case

Well-Written Decision

Alvarez v. United States is the least problematic because of its well-written decision. This trial took into consideration all the needed information, precisely the widely shared social values that are grounded in the rule of law. Justice Black in Gideon’s Trumpet is the judge that has identified the most First Amendment violations in history. Applicable to the case of Alvarez, he “has argued, in dissent, that no government has the power to censor obscenity.”1 Following this rationale that is connected to the First Amendment, the obscenity of claiming to have served in the military and receiving military honors should not be restricted by the government either.

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Many social values are reflected in the law to legitimize them in the Constitution, transforming a widely supported argument into a tool in the judicial process. First Amendment is a commonly accepted legitimization of the ultimate social value of the freedom of speech in American society. Gideon’s Trumpet plot showed the appeal to the widely shared values too. Corresponding to the widely accepted right, Lewis writes: “To… a person unfamiliar with the law it seemed inconceivable that the Constitution would allow a man to be tried without a lawyer because he could not afford one.”2 Operating on the same values of the commonly accepted law in the Constitution, Alvarez could not have been charged with the violation of the Stolen Valor Act. Since he exercised the freedom of speech, not the breach of the Act, the punishment was improper.3 Therefore, the vague interpretation of the Act has been spotted as a policy that attempts to limit speech that poses no harm and is allowed by the Constitution.

Impact on Society

The Court ruled that the Stolen Valor Act violated the First Amendment, which shows the impact of the outcome on society at large, on the litigants, and the image of the Supreme Court. In terms of the litigant, the decision impacted Alvarez by allowing him to avoid criminal punishment. The Supreme Court also restated its power and credibility by critically analyzing Acts in terms of being under the Constitution. Unlike many courts that decide to follow the majority and keep away from imposing changes in rules, this hearing proved that it is not always the case.4 Although the decision provided no remedy for the United States, it reviewed the use of the First Amendment. It refined the application of the Stolen Valor Act, which is a valuable legislative practice for future use. However, it is essential to note that the court decisions are mostly unable to provoke immediate change unless supported by common opinion, at least in American society.5 For a useful and timely social change, the decision has to be widely supported by the public. However, the situation still provided the ground for future use in the Court, and it did not immediately become a commonly-accepted notion that knowingly false speech is allowed by the Constitution.

Constitutional Interpretation

The case also appears to be the least problematic from a perspective of constitutional interpretation. The Alvarez trial is similar to the lawsuit of Butler v. the United States, where the plain meaning was used to prove that the issue was unconstitutional. Unlike regulating “production,” which is legal, Congress attempted to regulate “commerce”.6 That literalism and plain meaning interpretation of the Constitution helped to resolve the case, proving that Congress tried to regulate business illegally. Similar to the Butler, plain meaning helped to defend the First Amendment and establish that The Stolen Valor Act is, in fact, unconstitutional in its vagueness.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech to every individual. As stated in the court hearing, “The Supreme Court had never held that the government might prohibit speech simply because it is knowingly false and that some knowingly false speech could have affirmative constitutional value.”7 In the case of Alvarez, freedom of speech was executed freely with no objections because it did not cause harm to anybody. Gideon, in his letter to the Appeal Court, attempted to interpret the Constitution in plain meaning by stating that the Constitution grants every person a right for an attorney.8 By approaching the law with plain meaning, he saw the fundamental discrepancy between the right that he has and the fact that he was denied this right during the initial court hearing during his case. A similar approach was used in Alvarez v. the United States, resulting in the remanding of the lower Court’s decision, making no remedy for the United States justifiable.


Lewis, Anthony. Gideon’s Trumpet. Toronto: Random House of Canada Limited, 1964.

Porto, Brian. May It Please The Court. Boca Raton: C.R.C. Press, 2017.

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United States v. Alvarez, 567 U.S. 709 (2012).


  1. Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet, 98.
  2. Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet, 54.
  3. United States v. Alvarez, 567 U.S. 709 (2012).
  4. Porto, May It Please the Court, 24.
  5. Porto, May It Please the Court, 120.
  6. Porto, May It Please the Court, 3.
  7. Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet, 98.
  8. Lewis, Gideon’s Trumpet, 102.

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