For the first time ever, the United States Supreme Court will consider a case involving a restriction against the purchase of violent video games by minors.
GamePolitics has just received the news by way of a press release from the office of California State Senator Leland Yee (D). It was Yee who sponsored the contested video game law as an Assemblyman in 2005. The bill was signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October, 2005, triggering a court battle with between the state and the video game industry which will now extend to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The law, scheduled to take effect January 1st, 2006, never became effective due to an injunction issued by U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Whyte in December, 2005. Judge Whyte would eventually go on to permanently enjoin the law in August of 2007, ruling it unconstitutional. Gov. Schwarzenegger, however, ordered an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court.
In February of this year, a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit upheld Judge Whyte's ruling, leaving the U.S. Supreme Court as California's last option, an option that Gov. Schwarzenegger has now chosen to exercise. Schwarzenegger's comments are contained in the press release:
I signed this important measure to ensure parents are involved in determining which video games are appropriate for their children. By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law would allow parents to make better informed decisions for their kids. I will continue to vigorously defend this law and protect the well-being of California’s kids.
For his part, Yee, a child psychologist by trade, said:
I am hopeful that the Supreme Court – which has never heard a case dealing with violent video games – will accept our appeal...
Passing this law was not easy and thus we should not expect the court proceedings to be any different. The multi-billion dollar video game industry relies on the revenue generated by the sales of these extremely violent games to children; thus they have the desire and resources to fight this cause at every turn. Despite their high-priced lobbyists, they were unsuccessful in the Legislature and despite their high-priced lawyers, I am hopeful they will inevitably face the same fate in the courts.
California Attorney General Jerry Brown (D), whose office will handle the SCOTUS appeal, added:
California’s children are exposed everyday to video games that glamorize killing sprees, torture and sexual assault. In the face of this brutal violence, I am petitioning the Supreme Court to allow the state to enforce its reasonable ban on violent video game sales and rentals to minors.
The A.G.'s office has initiated the appeal by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari. As GamePolitics readers may recall from the recent Jack Thompson appeal, the Supreme Court process dictates that the justices as a group will consider California's petition in private conference at a later date. If four of the nine justices vote to grant California's petition, the case will advance to the filing of briefs. Otherwise, the appeal will end.