Department or Program



On July 23, 2007, elected public official Xavier Alvarez rose to introduce himself at a water district board meeting of directors in California. His brief statements formed a sequence of inexplicable mendacities, which included fabrications about serving in the U.S. Marines and having been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Punishable as criminal under the revised Stolen Valor Act of 2005 (Public Law 109-437), these falsifications resulted in the legal case United States v. Alvarez, which reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In a highly contentious decision authored by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr., the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 was ruled unconstitutional on account of its over broad abridgement of First Amendment protections. This judicial decision invoked an explicit weighing between the legal value of First Amendment protections and the societal value of preserving the sanctity of military service medals. Utilizing the theories developed by Chaïm Perelman and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca on value hierarchies and their rhetorical implementation in arguments, this thesis critically views the Alvarez decision authored by Judge Milan D. Smith, Jr. through the methodological lens of cluster analysis. The deliberate word associations cultivated within the legal language, and the frequency and intensity thereof, provide a unique insight into the justifications made in the weighing of two values long deemed paramount in American culture.

Level of Access

Open Access

Date of Graduation

Spring 5-2012

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file

Open Access

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