New Video Game Legislation in Massachusetts …Drafted by Jack Thompson

If you thought the video game industry’s uninterrupted string of federal court victories might discourage states from proposing further legislation, think again.

GamePolitics has confirmed that the Massachusetts legislature will soon take up consideration of a video game bill of the “harmful to minors” variety. This is the same legal concept traditionally used to block distribution of pornography to minors.

The proposed legislation, which does not yet have a primary sponsor, would block underage buyers from purchasing any game which:

  • depicts violence in a manner patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community, so as to appeal predominantly to the morbid interest in violence of minors
  • is patently contrary to prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed as to suitable material for such minors
  • and lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value for minors.

According to spokesperson Lynne Lyman of Boston’s Office of Human Services, about a dozen members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are prepared to sign on to the bill, as are some state senators. The bill enjoys the backing of Boston Mayor Thomas Menino as well as other influential community members.

Lyman told GP the bill is patterned on Utah’s, which Massachusetts officials believe has the best chance to succeed. However, the Utah bill, which failed to clear the state legislature in 2006, is very similar to Louisiana’s video game law, which was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge. The legislature in Utah is expected to reconsider the video game bill in 2007, albeit with a new sponsor.

Lyman also confirmed that controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson assisted in drafting the bill. Thompson was the author of the Utah and Louisiana bills.

Of his involvement, Thompson told GP:

The Mayor of Boston asked me to draft a bill, on his behalf, for the Massachusetts legislature. Mayors get to do that in Massachusetts. Secondly, it is very much like Louisiana. The difference is that these people intend to win the court fight, unlike the knuckleheads in Louisiana. That bill was constitutional. They took a dive because of (ESA boss Doug) Lowenstein’s threats.

State Put Forth No Defense of Failed Louisiana Video Game Law

As you probably know, Louisiana’s video game law – the one written by controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson (left) – was ruled unconstitutional by a federal district court judge last week.

Judge James Brady, who issued a temporary injunction in August which blocked the law from taking effect, granted the video game industry’s motion for summary judgment on November 29th. Brady’s ruling was the final nail in the controversial bill’s coffin.

In the wake of the Louisiana decision, GamePolitics has learned that the state essentially offered no defense of its own law. Deputy Attorney General Burton Guidry, assigned to argue Louisiana’s case, did not even file a motion in opposition to the video game industry’s request for summary judgment.

Nor did Guidry make any “substantive arguments” at last Wednesday’s hearing in Baton Rouge, according to a reliable source.

Indeed, after the hearing Guidry told local newspaper The Advocate:

We did everything we could to defend the law, but, as the judge said, the law was practically unenforceable as written…

Based on the way the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office seemed to distance itself from the ill-fated video game law, no appeal is expected.

Louisiana Deputy Attorney General: Video Game Law “Unenforceable as Written”

The deputy attorney general assigned to defend Louisiana’s failed video game law told a local newspaper he was not surprised that a federal judge found the measure unconstitutional.

The Louisiana statute was written by controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson. Burton Guidry, the deputy A.G., told The Advocate:

We did everything we could to defend the law, but, as the judge said, the law was practically unenforceable as written… The First Amendment is a mighty thing.

Guidry, who was the subject of harsh criticism by Thompson during earlier phases of the video game industry’s legal challenge, told the newspaper he thought the law could be re-drafted in a way that would be enforceable. It is unclear whether that will occur.

It is now likely that the video game industry will seek to recover its legal expenses in the case. The industry is currently awaiting more than $500,000 from Illinois for that state’s failed 2005 video game law.

Judge to Hear Arguments on Louisiana Video Game Law Today

Ah, Louisiana…

The source of so many GamePolitics exclusive stories over the summer has been on a rather quiet hiatus ever since Federal District Court Judge James Brady blocked the state’s video game law from taking effect in late August.

Louisiana’s video game law, by the way, was drafted by non other than Jack Thompson. The controversial attorney is seen at left, testifying about the game bill before the Louisiana legislature. Bill sponsor Rep. Roy Burrell (D) is seated next to Thompson.

Today Judge Brady will hear arguments on the contested law. Attorneys for the video game industry hope to have the controversial legislation thrown out permanently. The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office will be presenting the state’s case.

Judge Brady’s preliminary injunction can be read here.

Jack Thompson Rips Judge in Louisiana Video Game Case

From the Louisiana Governor's office on down, Jack Thompson has ripped a number of high-level officials in the ugly reality show surrounding the court fight over the state's video game law. Now the volatile Miami attorney has added a new target.

In a letter sent yesterday to Louisiana Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Attorney General Charles Foti, Thompson unleashed a string of criticism upon Federal District Court James Brady, who is hearing the case. Among other comments, Thompson accuses Judge Brady of bias:

“As to Judge Brady, you two (Blanco and Foti), as fellow Democrats, know of his liberal views and his past Chairmanship of the Louisiana Democratic Party. He was nominated by President Clinton because of his liberalism, and with that liberalism goes an absolutist view of the First Amendment that the Founders would not recognize.”

“Further, Judge Brady's trashing of the law before he even heard the constitutional and scientific basis for it, was so over the top as to provide the basis for a motion for recusal. His early pronouncements were outrageous and betrayed a disabling bias.”

“Judge Brady's comments made it clear that he could not be fair and that he would not be fair, and you all let him get away with it.”

“You should have put aside your shared Democratic history with this judge and filed a motion to recuse him. Judge Brady should be off the case…”

Despite Thompson's criticism of Judge Brady, his letter primarily targets Deputy Attorney General Burton Guidry, upon whom Thompson has rained invective for nearly a month:

“…(Guidry) is categorical in stating that this case cannot be won… Mr. Guidry and his 'task force' are a bunch of wimps… Again, look at Guidry's letter. It might as well have been written by the video game industry… This guy wants me to help him after writing a letter that says I am full of crap? Whom does this guy think he's kidding? Not me…”

GP should note that although Thompson cc'd GamePolitics on his latest letter to Gov. Blanco and A.G. Foti, we have not seen the full text of the Burton Guidry letter from which he is quoting.

Louisiana Attorney General to Jack Thompson: Put Up or Shut Up

The strange, contentious situation surrounding the legal defense of Louisiana’s video game law has gotten even stranger and more contentious.

Yesterday, Miami attorney Jack Thompson (left) forwarded to GamePolitics a pair of e-mails. The first was from Deputy Louisiana Attorney General Burton Guidry to Thompson, sent late Wednesday afternoon:

Ok Mr. Thompson, put up or shut up. I need affidavits and other documentation to defeat a motion for summary judgment. If you really want to help just get me the affidavits and some scientific data that can defeat this motion as soon as possible. Time is of the essence since [the game industry’s motion] has been filed today. I need the information by Monday in my hands for filing. Can you and will you?

Guidry is referring to the video game industry’s motion for summary judgment, filed with Federal Judge James Brady’s court earlier that day.

Thompson’s reply, which the controversial attorney also forwarded to GP, is addressed to Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and cc’d to Guidry and other officials of the Attorney General’s Office:

I and my experts, all of whom have testified before Congress on the demonstrably harmful effects of video games on teens, are happy to help the State of Louisiana defeat the fraudulent attack upon the above by the video game industry in federal court.”“However, that help is dependent upon your office’s and Attorney General Foti’s commitment, as I have been saying for weeks now, to do everything that is necessary and proper to win.”

“As it stands now, your office has ignored all of my warnings and requests in this regard… Your own office’s Terry Ryder [Gov. Blanco’s Executive Counsel] has been missing in action on all of this.”“Governor Blanco, get involved at least to the above extent, or kiss this law good-bye… Burton Guidry has childishly told me (his words) to ‘put up or shut up.'”

“The taunt applies to Attorney General Foti, not me.”

No word yet from Thompson on GP’s request to clarify exactly what he wants the Guv or the Attorney General to do. If the anti-game activist is forthcoming with that info we’ll update the story.

EDITORIAL: Are Lives – or Egos – at Stake in Louisiana?

Are lives really at stake in the legal fight over Louisiana’s video game law, or has the situation devolved into a finger-pointing battle of bruised egos?

Over the last 18 months GamePolitics has reported extensively on anti-game attorney Jack Thompson’s relentless crusade against video game violence. Nowhere during that time has Thompson enjoyed the kind of political success he found recently in Louisiana. Readers will recall that Thompson drafted the state’s video game law, testified on its behalf, and basked in its unanimous approval by the legislature.

The video game industry, of course, mounted a legal challenge, contesting the law’s constitutionality. And it is on that playing field that Thompson has dropped the ball – in more ways than one. Especially regrettable is Thompson’s ugly feud with the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.

Thompson has recently – and publicly – expressed the view that A.G. Charles Foti and his deputy, Burton Guidry, bungled the legal defense of the video game law. It’s difficult to see how, since, from the standpoint of constitutional precedent, the deck was always stacked against the Louisiana bill – despite Thompson’s claims that it would survive legal challenge.

Of particular concern, however, is Thompson’s unwillingness to share so-called expert witnesses and information with the A.G.’s office in the wake of this dust-up. The Miami attorney wrote in an August 7th e-mail to Louisiana officials:

I have just instructed all of my… experts in the Alabama wrongful death case, all of whom have testified before Congress about the need for your kind of law, to have NOTHING whatsoever to do with your litigation in Louisiana unless I approve it… Lives are at stake, while your Mr. Foti does press conferences on Hurricane Katrina…

That Thompson would even think of comparing the relative importance of the video game issue to the ongoing Katrina recovery process is offensive. Meanwhile, via e-mail, Burton Guidry complained last week to Rep. Roy Burrell, sponsor of the legislation, about Thompson’s hard-line stance:

Unfortunately we have no facts or experts to contradict their motions due to Mr. Thompsons reluctance to help. We have very little choice but to wait for the bomb to fall.

“The bomb,” of course, would be the federal court’s final determination that the law is unconstitutional.

If, as Thompson claims, there are truly “lives at stake,” how can he think of withholding his full cooperation from Louisiana officials?

Whether Thompson is motivated by simple pique or a genuine disagreement with the A.G. doesn’t really matter at this point. To borrow a football analogy, it’s 4th-and-long in Baton Rouge – time for Thompson to show that he can be a team player, not Terrell Owens with a law degree.

Not that we think it’s going to make much of a difference – this law will be overturned by the court just as its predecessors were. But it was Jack Thompson who jumped into the Louisiana video game fray with both feet, giving assurances that his bill was better than previous efforts, more narrowly crafted and proof from constitutional challenges.

Somehow, things aren’t quite working out as advertised.

Whether or not the anti-game activist approves of the Louisiana A.G. is irrelevant. Rep. Roy Burrell and his colleagues put their trust in Jack Thompson when they fast-tracked this law through the legislative process. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco put her trust in Jack Thompson when she signed the bill into law. They now have every right to expect Thompson’s full cooperation in defense of the video game legislation.

Win or lose, Jack Thompson has an obligation to see this fight through.

UPDATE: Thompson takes exception to today’s GP editorial, writing in part, “I have repeatedly offered to help Lousiana win this court fight if the Governor will do what is necessary to stop the laydown by AG Foti’s office.

GP has, in fact, previously reported Thompson’s position of withholding his experts unless Gov. Blanco stepped in, a move it’s pretty obvious she is not prepared to make.

E-mails Show Louisiana Court Defeat Reaction

GP was just forwarded a series of e-mails by controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson. The e-mails were provided, without comment, by Thompson. They appear to reflect reactions by key Louisiana political figures to the news that Federal Judge James Brady had just issued a preliminary injunction blocking the state's video game law.

We’ll let the e-mails tell their tale. For new GP readers, the exchange will make more sense if you understand that Thompson and the Louisiana Attorney General’s office have been feuding over the handling of the court case.

The first of three e-mails included here was sent last night from Deputy Attorney General Burton Guidry to Rep. Roy Burrell (left), sponsor of the ill-fated bill:

For your information this is the courts ruling which was issued today. i anticipate a motion for summary judgement to be filed by the plaintiffs in the next two weeks. Unfortunately we have no facts or experts to contradict their motions due to Mr. Thompsons reluctance to help. We have very little choice but to wait for the bomb to fall.

Next, Burrell to Jack Thompson, this morning:

If you have not seen the judge ruling, here it is. What do you suggest? I have talked to Guidry on this matter and express my disappointment of not getting everyone input before putting for the argument, not that it made the difference in the judge’s ruling. It was expressed to him that since we all had started out together pushing the bill through the legislature, I wanted us to continue our fight together.” “Because this was not adequately done, I have requested that Mr. Guidry’s office arrange a conference call to include Terry Ryder if mediation is required. He will await my reply. That is my last ditch effort to save my bill in court. It deserves a try. There is no further need for name calling and ill-will. The odds are already stacked against us. If we are ultimately defeated, let’s go down fighting together, for our children, Louisiana and nation. That is the least I can ask of you and for my constituents. Let’s not defeat yourselves.”

“Thompson replies to Burrell late Friday afternoon:

I’ll help if there is a real commitment to win this thing. But the Governor is obviously not interested, as her office has ignored all my warnings that the preliminary injunction was going to be entered and that Foti’s office as acting as if it couldn’t care less. I don’t put my shoulder to the wheel with people who don’t care. Lives are at stake here, and it looks like the executive branch of the Louisiana government thinks this is one big joke.

Finally, Thompson again attacks the A.G.’s office in an e-mail to Gov. Blanco:

…I hope you will finally take to heart my warnings… that Attorney General Foti and his office were dropping the ball on this matter, either by incompetence or design… Please instruct Mr. Foti’s office either to start doing a decent job in defending this constitutional law, or tell him, as the Apostle Paul might, to get the Hell out of the way.

There’s one important caveat here, and that’s the fact that we’re not sure these are the only e-mails exchanged between the parties; they’re just the ones GP has been shown by an agenda-driven source, Jack Thompson.

Judge in Louisiana Game Case Issues Deadline, Promises a Ruling

The federal judge presiding over ESA/EMA vs. Foti, the video game industry’s constitutional challenge to Louisiana’s new video game law, has indicated he will rule soon on the industry’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Federal District Court Judge James Brady held what is known as a “status conference” yesterday in his chambers. Representing the video game industry were local attorney James Brown and lead attorney Paul Smith, who was conferenced in via speakerphone. Smith (left) has enjoyed a string of victories on behalf of the video game industry of late, including big wins in Ilinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

Present for the defense was Louisiana Deputy Attorney General Burton Guidry, whose efforts in the case were the subject of harsh criticism last week by controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson, the author of Louisiana’s video game legislation. Since the case began, Guidry has represented Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti, a named defendant.

Another named defendant did not appear at the status conference. Doug Moreau, District Attorney of East Baton Rouge Parrish has distanced himself from the Louisiana video game law almost from the moment the suit was filed. As reported previously by GamePolitics, Moreau told a local reporter, “Nobody consulted me.”

Moreau’s involvement in the case is primarily symbolic in that he represents local district attorneys who would be involved in bringing prosecutions against video games under the terms of the law.

Judge Brady directed the parties to file any pending motions by August 30th and promised, “As soon as the briefs are received, the court will rule on the motion for preliminary injunction.

In the meantime, a temporary restraining order issued by the Judge prevents the Louisiana law from being enforced.

Louisiana Video Game Bill Sponsor Sticking By Jack Thompson

State Rep. Roy Burrell (D) is standing by his man.

The sponsor of Louisiana’s contested video game law refused to be drawn into the nasty fight Jack Thompson picked in recent days with Attorney General Charles Foti (D) and his deputy, Burton Guidry (see yesterday’s GP coverage for details).

Thompson, the controversial anti-game attorney from Miami, helped Burrell draft Louisiana’s video game legislation. That bill, HB1381, passed both houses of the state legislature unanimously. It was signed into law by Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) on June 15th. The video game industry sued immediately to stop the new law from taking effect. Burrell and Thompson are seen in the photo at left, testifying about the bill before the House Criminal Justice Committee on May 10th.

Rep. Burrell, asked to comment on Thompson’s startling charges that Attorney General Foti and Deputy A.G. Guidry were mishandling the defense of Louisiana’s video game law against the game industry’s legal challenge, opted for a conciliatory approach.

The lawmaker told GamePolitics, “I consider myself a consensus-building legislator, so I guess am not as quick to jump to conclusions, that Mr. Jack Thompson has burned any bridges with officials in Louisiana.

It’s unclear whether the targets of Thompson’s wrath will be as sympathetic. Deputy Attorney General Burton Guidry, who Thompson accused of thwarting his efforts to help with the case, did not respond to GP’s request for comment. Nor did Terry Ryder, Executive Counsel to Louisiana Gov. Blanco. Thompson has claimed that Ryder, acting on behalf of the Governor, asked him to assist in the defense of the video game law.

For his part, Rep. Burrell seemed to be searching for a silver lining in what looks, from here at least, to be a very ugly, very public rift.

We all are a tough bunch in Louisiana,” he told GP. “Historically, we Louisianans are known ourselves to be a little testy at times, just enough to get the old blood boiling. Hopefully, the additional adrenaline and testosterone being displayed here may be just the extra ‘uh’ needed in the upcoming ‘cockfight’ over the constitutionally of this bill.

Both the A.G.’s office and Mr. Thompson bring new and fresh legal perspectives to the defense of this issue,” Burrell continued. “…It is my sincere and ultimate hope that they may focus all of their combined energies on the final successful defense of this child protection bill. Our kids and communities depend on it. As in any good fight, one must know who the real enemy is. It is normally not the one on your side.

Thompson, cc’d by Burrell, was quick to jump back into the fray, praising Burrell in an e-mail as “a profile in courage to take all the arrows from the (video game) industry. Thompson didn’t specify what those “arrows” might have been.

He also resumed his attack on A.G. Foti and his office, saying, “This is like the Keystone Kops… Right now, (Foti) and his staff might as well be working for the (video game) industry. That is how bad their effort has been.

Thompson also threatened to withhold what he termed his “stable of experts” from testifying on behalf of the Louisiana law unless Gov. Blanco stepped in.

Despite the uproar caused by Thompson, Rep. Burrell remained sanguine.

This too shall pass,” he told GamePolitics.