Minnesota Appeals “Fine the Buyer” Video Game Law Today

The United States 8th Circuit Court will hear arguments today in Minnesota’s appeal of a District Court ruling that its 2006 “fine the buyer” video game statute was unconstitutional. 

Perhaps you remember Minnesota’s unusual approach to video game legislation? It may have been bad law, but in terms of political theatrics, this one had it all.

While most video game bills propose sanctions on retailers, in June of 2006 Minnesota passed a law which would have fined underage buyers of M-rated games $25.

The measure was the brainchild of State Sen. Sandra Pappas (D, left)) and State Rep. Jeff Johnson (R). Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) signed the bill into law and then-Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) vowed to defend it against the video game industry’s inevitable lawsuit.

The political backstory here is that Pawlenty and Hatch were opposing candidates in Minnesota’s gubernatorial race, while Rep. Johnson was making a run for attorney general.

For her part, bill sponsor Pappas told GameSpot, “”Legislators don’t worry too much about what’s constitutional.”

Despite the politicking, U.S. District Court Judge James Rosenbaum, who checked out Jade Empire on his clerk’s Xbox while evaluating the case, ruled the Minnesota law unconstitutional less than two months after Pawlenty signed it into law.

In a story broken by GamePolitics, then-Attorney General Hatch went a bit ballistic in court filings, writing that violent games were “worthless, disgusting speech” and “speech of very low societal value.”

Hatch, who lost the governor’s race to the incumbent Pawlenty, is now out of office. The state’s new Attorney General, Lori Swanson, will carry the video game appeal forward.

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