Via Orders of the Court (PDF) just issued at 10:00 AM ET this morning, The Supreme Court of the United States has granted the petition for a writ of certiorari to the California side of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) v. Schwarzenegger.
This means that the nation’s top court will indeed review a decision by the 9th Circuit Court of California in February of 2009, which struck down a California law that would make it illegal to rent or sell violent videogames to consumers under the age of 18. Retailers who violated the law would be subject to fines of up to $1,000.
While it granted Schwarzenegger and California writ of certiorari, SCOTUS did choose not to accept an amicus brief filed by California State Senator Leland Yee (D), original author of the videogame bill. The brief attempted to detail “the compelling evidence considered by the Legislature and the Governor in approving the law,” wrote Yee.
Bo Anderson, President and CEO of the EMA, offered:
EMA obviously would have preferred that the Supreme Court decline review of the lower court decision finding the California video game restriction law to be unconstitutional. We are confident, however, that when the Supreme Court conducts its review, it will conclude that the lower court correctly analyzed the law and reached the appropriate conclusion.
Instead SCOTUS itself will review the case in its next term, which begins on October 4.
Update: Michael Gallagher, Entertainment Software Association (ESA) President, offered the following comments on today’s news:
Courts throughout the country have ruled consistently that content-based regulation of computer and video games is unconstitutional. Research shows that the public agrees, video games should be provided the same protections as books, movies and music.
As the Court recognized last week in the US v. Stevens case, the First Amendment protects all speech other than just a few ‘historic and traditional categories’ that are ‘well-defined and narrowly limited.’ We are hopeful that the Court will reject California’s invitation to break from these settled principles by treating depictions of violence, especially those in creative works, as unprotected by the First Amendment.
Update 2: Senator Leland Yee was obviously thrilled with the decision of SCOTUS, saying, “I am very pleased that the Supreme Court has accepted our case to help protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent, interactive video games. I am hopeful that the high court will determine our law to be Constitutional, but regardless, states are now certain to receive direction on how to proceed with this important issue."
If the Supreme Court thought that the facts and circumstances surrounding the Stevens case were similar, they would have thrown out our law as well. Clearly, the justices want to look specifically at our narrowly tailored law that simply limits sales of ultra-violent games to kids without prohibiting speech.
Entertainment Consumers Association (ECA) VP of Government Affairs Jennifer Mercurio stated:
The Roberts court seems to be tackling free speech head on this year. We are encouraged by the Court’s decision last week in US v Stevens, which holds, among other things, that First Amendment protection is not reserved for “serious” speech and we look forward to the oral arguments in the fall.
Update 3: The Media Coalition, the trade association that defends the First Amendment rights of mainstream media, including video games, spoke out today about the Supreme Court’s decision to review the constitutionality of California’s violent video games law. Executive Director David Horowitz believes that the law will be struck down for the third time.
“In last week’s ruling in U.S. v. Stevens, the Court reiterated that speech is protected by the First Amendment save for a small number of narrow historic exceptions,” Horowitz said. “The speech at issue in this case does not fall within one of those narrow exceptions and we hope that the Court will decline to create a new category of unprotected speech.”
In addition to filing an amicus brief in the California case, the Media Coalition in 2004 brought a successful challenge to an Ohio law that banned speech with violent themes in all media (Bookfriends v. Taft), and filed amicus briefs or assisted with challenges to similar laws in Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Washington, Louisiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma.
Disclosure: Gamepolitics is a publication of the ECA.