Part of the Bay Area News Group

Video game law SCOTUS arguments set for Nov. 2

By Josh Richman
Friday, August 27th, 2010 at 4:58 pm in Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee.

The U.S. Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in the challenge to California’s law against sale of excessively violent video games to children for Nov. 2.

The 2005 law — authored by then-Assemblyman and now state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — never took effect because it was immediately challenged by video game industry trade groups and struck down by a federal judge in 2005 and by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2009.

The nation’s highest court agreed in April to review the case; State Attorney General Jerry Brown last month submitted the state’s written argument, while Yee joined the California Psychological Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, in submitting a “friend of the court” brief. Eleven other states – Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia – also submitted an amicus brief in support of California’s law.

The video game industry trade groups challenging the statute have argued it violates First Amendment rights to free expression and 14th Amendment rights to equal protection under the law. They said it’s unnecessary because of the voluntary ratings education and enforcement programs already in place, and would provide no meaningful standards to know to which games it applies.

But the state’s brief argues the law promotes parental authority to restrict unsupervised minors’ access to a narrow category of material in order to protect their physical and psychological well-being — a vital state interest — and it’s well-recognized that minors don’t always have the same First Amendment freedoms as adults to see sexual or violent material.

Yee issued a news release today saying he intends to attend the arguments in Washington, D.C.

“I am hopeful that the Supreme Court will help us give parents a valuable tool to protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games,” he said. “We need to help empower parents with the ultimate decision over whether or not their children play in a world of violence and murder. The video game industry should not be allowed to put their profit margins over the rights of parents and the well-being of children.”

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