SCOTUS Rules on Case that Could Lead to EMA v. Schwarzenegger Decision

The Supreme Court today issued a ruling on a First Amendment case that could have a direct impact on the Entertainment Merchants Association v. Schwarzenegger appeal which has been languishing in the nation’s top court.

United States v. Stevens centered on the rights of Robert Stevens to sell or traffic in media that depicted animal cruelty. Stevens was arrested under a 1999 law that attempted to forbid the depiction of cruelty against animals. SCOTUS ruled 8-1 that the government, per the SCOTUS Blog, “lacks the power to outlaw expressions of animal cruelty, when that is done in videotapes and other commercial media.” The decision (PDF) essentially nullifies the 199 law.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. wrote that the court “was not restricting the power of government to punish actual acts of animal cruelty,” but that “there was no similar history behind Congress’s attempt to ban video or other portrayals of acts of cruelty to living creatures.”

Justice Alito Samuel Alito was the lone dissenter, arguing that the 1999 law should have been analyzed further and that “the Court should have sent the case back to the Third Circuit to decide whether Stevens’ videotapes were illegal under the law.”

It is widely believed that SCOTUS held off on an EMA v. Schwarzenegger decision until a decision on US v. Stevens was reached, due to similarities between the cases in regards to legal restrictions on depictions of violence.

EMA v. Schwarzenegger (formerly The Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) v. Schwarzenegger) revolves around a Californian law that banned the sale of certain videogames to anyone under 18 years of age. First signed into law by Schwarzenegger in 2005, the law was rejected again in February of 2009 by the 9th Circuit Court of California, which upheld an earlier 2007 ruling that deemed the law unconstitutional.

Schwarzenegger and California Attorney General Jerry Brown appealed the case to the Supreme Court in May of 2009.

Thanks BearDogg-X, PHX Corp and E. Zachary!

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