Students at the California Western School of Law (CWSL) staged a simulation of the Schwarzenegger vs. EMA case last week and ultimately, issued a ruling in favor of the game industry.
CWSL Professor Glenn Smith, organizer of the event (pictured), discussed with GamePolitics the unique approach he and his students adapted for the simulation—each student assigned to play the role of a Supreme Court Justice conducted “substantial research” into a particular judge’s past case decisions, writings and speeches in order to more effectively immerse themselves into the role.
The students, according to Smith, were assigned to “ask questions at oral argument and then decide the case as their justice would, not as they personally would.”
Oral arguments were presented last week, but the students playing SCOTUS Justices met yesterday for a “simulated case conference” in order to render their verdict, which came out 8-1 in favor of affirming the 9th Circuit’s ruling that the law was invalid.
Smith offered that the affirming student justices agreed that “the California law was content-based regulation of protected speech requiring the State to meet the two ‘strict scrutiny’ tests.” Two of the justices held that California had met the first test “by having a ‘compelling interest’ in protecting minors against video-game violence.”
The other six justices “would either find the evidence of a link between video games and violence inadequate or simply punt on this issue.” The eight majority justices agreed that the California law wasn’t “narrowly drawn” and was “substantially vague.”
In closing, Smith, who expects the real Supreme Court decision to be much closer than the result his students returned, offered the following summation to GP:
If the students turn out having overstated the "real" Court's support for free speech, that will just indicate that it was harder for the students to "check their own views" at the conference door for this case. First, they have absorbed well the lessons we Con Law professors teach about the primacy of freedom of expression. Second, there's probably an interesting generational issue -- with my students much more game-friendly and tech-savvy than the Justices are likely to be.
In September, the Institute of Bill of Rights Law (IBRL) at William & Mary Law School hosted their own Schwarzenegger vs. EMA reproduction, which resulted in a 6-3 vote in favor of the California law.