U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court Accepts Free Speech Challenge to Ban on Violent Video Games


The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether California’s ban on the sale and rental of violent video games to minors violates the First Amendment.

The court granted cert today, according to stories in Reuters, Bloomberg and the Associated Press. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had overturned the law, saying the state did not produce enough evidence showing the harmful effects of the games.

California contends the state can regulate violent videos to protect minors, just as it can regulate sexual materials to protect children. The state urges the Supreme Court to apply the constitutional standard used to protect minors from obscene materials to also protect them from violent fare, SCOTUSblog reports. Rather than applying the obscenity standard, the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit instead used strict scrutiny to strike down the law, according to SCOTUSblog.

The Supreme Court had deferred action on the cert petition for seven months, Bloomberg says. During that time another First Amendment case was pending that challenged a statute barring depictions of animal cruelty. The Supreme Court ruled last week, finding in U.S. v. Stevens that the animal cruelty law was overbroad and a violation of the First Amendment.

According to AP, the cert grant was surprising given the court’s ruling in the Stevens case last week. “The California case poses similar free speech concerns,” the story says, “although the state law is aimed at protecting children, raising an additional issue that affects the high court’s consideration.”

The case is Schwarzenegger v. Video Software Dealers Association.

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