The Stolen Valor Act was the focus on this year’s Media Law Symposium hosted by the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
The symposium, held Thursday in the Martin H. Levin Advocacy Center at the law school, featured a reception at 11:30 a.m., a panel at noon and a Q-and-A session afterward. It was organized by UF’s Journal of Law and Public Policy, who chose the topic of discussion.
Kara Carnley, editor-in-chief of the journal, said the topic was chosen because it has become such a focus of the Supreme Court.
The Stolen Valor Act makes it illegal to knowingly benefit from lying about receiving awards for military service. An updated version was recently introduced to the House of Representatives.
Col. Michael Smidt, staff judge advocate with U.S. Special Operations Command, said there is a clear difference in this update.
“The versions that I’ve seen have some requirements that the person knowingly tells a falsehood, and then they attempt to obtain some benefit as a result of that falsehood,” he said. “The original was if you claimed that you had an award that you didn’t have, that was enough to be criminally prosecuted.”
Smidt was one of four panelists. He said he understands why the Stolen Valor Act has become such a focus for members of the military.
“I’m sworn to uphold the Constitution,” he said, “so whatever our civilian leadership decides that means — the judiciary and political branch — that’s what we’re going to adhere to, that’s what we do as soldiers. We adhere to the decisions made by others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have personal feelings.”
The other panelists were Lyrissa Lidsky, a media law professor at UF; Craig D. Feiser, a First Amendment and media law attorney; and Kristen Rasmussen, an attorney who wrote the amicus brief presented to the Supreme Court for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
Carnley said the members of the panel were chosen because they are a well-rounded group of experts who will be able to address all of the different topics regarding the Stolen Valor Act and the Alvarez case, which was the first court case related to lying about receiving a medal of honor.
Students were given the opportunity to interact with professionals in the field who might be practicing in an area of interest to them.
Smidt hoped this symposium would help him to learn more from his fellow panelists and students in the audience, who would also hopefully benefit from the discussion.
“I think what will happen is, between the members of the panel, maybe the students will be exposed to ideas that aren’t necessarily captured in the opinions of the court, because, you know, they only have so much time and so much expertise,” he said. “And I think by bringing in people from a wide spectrum of the marketplace of ideas, they’ll be exposed to a lot of different thoughts and perspectives.”