The 9th U.S. Circuit Court is not expected to rule immediately on today's hearing in which California appealed a lower court decision that invalidated the state's 2005 video game law.
But a well-informed source who attended the proceedings told GamePolitics that the case looks as if it will ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. If so, it would be the first time the highest court in the land has considered a video game issue.
Reports by media observers in attendance support the notion that whichever side loses will appeal to SCOTUS. From the Associated Press:
Appellate Judge Consuelo Callahan said upholding California's law would mark a significant expansion of the kind of material that federal courts have traditionally regulated...
California Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazzini urged the panel to take that step. He said states have every right to help parents who want to keep their children from playing violent video games. The U.S. Supreme Court already has limited sexually explicit material from children. Violent video games are just as obscene, Morazzini argued.
"I believe the Supreme Court has left that door wide open," he told the panel.
The San Jose Mercury-News reports that the Circuit Court judges seemed inclined to uphold the lower court's 2007 injunction against the California law:
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals expressed concern that the state's anti-violent video game law runs afoul of the First Amendment... While the 9th Circuit judges did lend some support to the state, they were generally skeptical the law can survive.
"What you are asking us to do is go where no one has gone before,'' Judge Consuelo Callahan said to the state's lawyer. "Admittedly, [the violent video games] are disgusting. But aren't you just trying to be the thought police?''
San Francisco's ABC-7 covered the hearing with reporter Terry McSweeney interviewing State Sen. Leland Yee (left), author of California's bill. Jennifer Mercurio, an attorney with gamer advocacy group the Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA), is quoted by ABC-7:
The way this law is drafted comes up against hundreds of years of First Amendment issues.
McSweeney ended his video report with this commentary:
Both sides agree that whoever loses is going to appeal this thing and it's going to end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.