But no, Summers isn’t a lawyer. But according to the Madison police incident report, James Summers allegedly barged into the Denny’s Restaurant to cook his own food and then poured himself a soft drink when he finally sat down to eat his misappropriated chow. He was arrested for defrauding a restaurant keeper; possession of a stun gun; disorderly conduct, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
Inexplicably, it seems there’s always somebody trying to impersonate a lawyer. Earlier this month, for example, a Texas woman was accused of impersonating an immigration attorney and last year, an Ohio Lawyer imposter was arrested and jailed at the Summit jail when he claimed to be a lawyer visiting a client at the same jail.
My favorite, though, was fake lawyer Tahir Malik who tried over 60 cases in Cook County, Illinois. When he was finally busted, it was discovered that Malik had allegedly used TV legal dramas to impersonate a lawyer. Following his conviction, Malik was sentenced to two years in prison.
So, why not a guy impersonating a restaurant manager, especially when he’s craving a 5-finger discounted cheeseburger?
Lying as protected speech?
Maybe, I’ve had lying and impersonations on my mind because the day after Summers was arrested for his Denny’s caper, the U.S. Supreme Court finally heard Oral Argument in United States v. Alvarez. That’s the case I’ve been following, which will decide whether the Stolen Valor Act 18 USC § 704(b) is facially invalid under the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment. The Act makes it a federal crime to falsely claim you have been awarded any U.S. Military decoration or medal authorized by Congress.
Specifically, United States v. Alvarez (11-210) is the challenge brought by an elected municipal water district board member, Xavier Alvarez who lied about winning the Medal of Honor and who was convicted for violating the Act. His conviction was subsequently overturned by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Also see “Is There a Right to Lie?” – NYTimes.com
I listened to the oral argument and I think the Stolen Valor Act will probably be upheld. The Court seemed inclined not to broaden protected speech to include lying that causes harm. Moreover, Alvarez’s lawyer, Jonathan Libby, surprisingly conceded that no truthful speech was chilled by the Act. Libby said, “Your Honor, it’s not that it may necessarily chill any truthful speech. We certainly concede that one typically knows whether or not one has won a medal or not.”
Indeed, in his rebuttal, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli made hay of that concession, addressing Chief Justice John Roberts, “The Respondent has conceded that this statute chills nothing. That should be sufficient answer to Your Honor’s concern that with respect to other statutes in the future, they can be evaluated to determine whether or not they impose a – – a chill that would lead as an instrumental matter to the conclusion that they ought not to be found to satisfy the First Amendment. As Respondent concedes, there is no chill here, so this statute is constitutional.”
All the same, however, I expect a narrowly tailored decision this fall. As for James Summers and his supposedly ill-gotten cheeseburger, he’ll likely be charged under Wisconsin state misappropriation law.
His case has nothing to do with “Stolen Valor” and Xavier Alvarez’s B.S. other than as a reminder of Thomas Carlyle’s admonition, “Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.”
Credits: “Insomniac’s Hideaway” by Oliver Hammond, Olivander, at Flickr via Creative Commons-licensed content for noncommercial use requiring attribution and share alike distribution;