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False Speech: Quagmire?

63 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2013 Last revised: 15 Dec 2014

Christopher P. Guzelian

Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Date Written: April 6, 2013


Recently decided cases in several Federal Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court demonstrate that First Amendment false speech case law is contradictory and unpredictable. This essay gives examples and concludes that legal liability for false speech will continue to be arbitrary and even susceptible to intentionally unjust decisionmaking if judges and juries individually and collectively disregard or downplay the necessity of an honest search for truth in the guise of tolerance and evenhandedness.

If Americans wish to avoid an anything-goes “quagmire,” they must — despite inevitable resistance in a civilization increasingly rife with skeptics — undergo transformations of their thinking habits so as to genuinely seek and successfully identify truth with charitable application in law. In addition, a certain kind of optimism is necessary to render consistent and correct conclusions in false speech cases. This article’s implications may also extend beyond false speech to other areas of constitutional and common law.

Keywords: false speech, truthful speech, free speech, First Amendment, Stolen Valor Act, defamation, false statements

JEL Classification: K19, K30

Suggested Citation

Guzelian, Christopher P., False Speech: Quagmire? (April 6, 2013). San Diego Law Review, Vol. 51, p. 19, 2014; Thomas Jefferson School of Law Research Paper No. 2245157. Available at SSRN:

Christopher P. Guzelian (Contact Author)

Thomas Jefferson School of Law ( email )

1155 Island Ave
San Diego, CA 92101
United States
619-961-4248 (Phone)

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