How Obama’s SCOTUS Choice Might Affect Video Games

With the pending retirement of Justice David Souter from the U.S. Supreme Court, President Barack Obama will have the opportunity to name a replacement.

His choice could have a major impact on the constitutional issues relating to video games, especially if California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decides to ask SCOTUS to consider February’s 9th Circuit Court ruling that his state’s 2005 video game law is unconstitutional. That decision from Schwarzenegger will come later this month.

Among names being floated for Souter’s seat are Gov. Jennifer Granholm (left) of Michigan and 7th Circuit Court Judge Diane Pamela Wood (right). Both have a track record with video game issues.

As Governor, Granholm signed into law a 2005 video game blocking minors from purchasing violent games. The video game industry filed suit and the measure was ruled unconstitutional later that year by a U.S. District Court judge.

For her part, Judge Wood has a rather different history with games. In 2001 she was part of a three-judge Circuit Court panel which overturned an Indianapolis law that sought to limit the access of minors to violent arcade games. That case, AAMA v. Kendrick was the first of what has become an uninterrupted string of court victories in such cases for the video game industry.

Whether Obama appoints Wood, Granholm or another choice, this could be the year that the constitutionality of restricting violent video game sales makes it to the Supreme Court. The possibilities become even more interesting given conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s 2008 comment that such restrictions might pass constitutional muster.


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