This morning when the state of California argues before the U.S. 9th Circuit that its 2005 video game law is constitutional, at least one member of the Court’s three-judge appeal panel will have some familiarity with games.
As GamePolitics has previously reported, Judge Alex Kozinski at one time penned game reviews for the Wall Street Journal. On a more serious note, Kozinski has also apparently survived a June scandal in which sexually graphic images were found on a personal website which he maintained.
Other panel members include Judge Sydney Thomas and Judge Consuelo Callahan (left). Callahan has been dubbed The Dancin’ Queen of the Ninth Circuit thanks to her penchant for beaking into tap routines (GP: You can’t make this stuff up.):
A hoofer with a sense of humor, Callahan likes to surprise judicial and legal gatherings by starting discussions about serious topics and ending with a quip about appellate judges who tap dance around issues. She then pulls off her black robe to reveal a sequined costume and tap shoes.
She’s been known to hop on a tabletop or in one case on a judicial bench during these special events and do some pretty impressive steps. "I may be the highest ranking tap dancer in federal court," Callahan said with a grin during a recent interview in her chambers in the Sacramento federal court building. "It is fun and it has a certain shock value."
Shock value, indeed. Wouldn’t it be fab if Judge Callahan broke out the tap shoes this morning?
Today’s hearing will take place at 9:30 am PST at the McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento. In a press release, State Senator Leland Yee (D), architect of the contested video game law, offered his view:
California’s violent video game law properly seeks to protect children from the harmful effects of interactive, ultra violent video games. Our efforts to assist parents in the fight to keep these harmful video games out of the hands of children should survive Constitutional challenge under all levels of judicial review.
Based on an extensive body of peer-reviewed research from leading social scientists and medical associations, we narrowly tailored this law to serve the State’s compelling interest in protecting children. I am hopeful that the 9th Circuit will overturn the lower courts decision and help empower parents with the ultimate decision over whether or not their children play in a world of violence and murder.
Game retailers group the Entertainment Merchants Association, along with game publishers group the ESA, are plaintiffs in the case. The EMA recapped the legal fight surrounding the California law in its own press release – hit the jump for the details.
In 2005, the state of California enacted a law to restrict the sale or rental to anyone under the age of 18 of computer and video games that are classified as “violent video games” if the depictions of violence in the games are offensive to the community or if the violence depicted is committed in an “especially heinous, cruel, or depraved” manner. The law was scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2006.
Prior to the law taking effect, the [EMA] and the [ESA] filed suit against California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and others to prevent its enforcement. The plaintiffs asserted that the law’s restriction on the sale or rental of certain violent video games violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution to freedom of expression and equal protection of the laws and is unconstitutionally vague.
In August 2007, a federal district court judge granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs and permanently barred enforcement of California’s video game law. In doing so, the judge ruled that video games are protected by the First Amendment, the law is unduly restrictive and uses overly broad definitions, and the state failed to show that the limitations on violent video games would actually protect children.
The state of California appealed the summary judgment ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. As part of that appeal, a three-judge panel of that court will hear arguments by the plaintiffs and the state on the constitutionality of the law.