The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on Nov. 2 in Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association, regarding a California law against selling or renting violent games to kids.
Court watcher SCOTUSblog posted the schedule on Monday. The games case is one of seven from which new Justice Elena Kagan has not recused herself; her previous work as U.S. solicitor general has required her to step down from six of the cases in the upcoming term.
This is the last stop for the 2005 law, ruled unconstitutional in a federal district court in August 2007, and at the appellate level in February 2009. The law wants to levy fines against retailers who rent or sell to minors video games depicting "especially heinous, cruel or depraved" violence, such as torture.
Federal courts have thrown out the law, finding no evidence establishing that games "are any more harmful than violent television, movies, internet sites or other speech-related exposures." That's part of the requirement for the constitutional validity of such a content restriction, which necessarily infringes on First Amendment protections of free speech. Laws restricting the sale of pornography are an example.
You can read up on California's argument why its law is valid; it argues, among other things, that there's a double standard in protecting kids from sexual imagery but not violence.
While this will be the final decision on this law (decisions and orders come some months after oral arguments) it will, of course, bear huge ramifications for more than just California. State lawmakers have regularly tested the waters, losing every time such laws hit the courts. The governor of Utah, a deeply conservative state, last year vetoed a violent-games bill and cited its likely failure in the federal courts, and the expense of litigating it, as a big reason why. So a victory for California could embolden other statehouses.
A defeat, well, I don't think anyone will ever stop trying to regulate video games. It's a great emotional issue that can animate conservatives and liberals alike and gives the appearance that a legislator is doing something.
Supreme Court To Hear Video Game Case On November 2 [MTV Multiplayer]