Supreme Court Rules Against California Ban On Violent Video Games For Minors

WASHINGTON (CBS/AP) – The U.S. Supreme Court by a 7-2 vote Monday struck down a California law that banned the sale or rental of violent video games to children under the age of 18.

The court majority said the games are protected by the First Amendment right of free speech.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Like protected books, plays and movies that preceded them, video games communicate ideas—and even social messages.

“That suffices to confer First Amendment protection,” Scalia wrote.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:  

The court ruled in a lawsuit filed in federal court in San Jose in 2005 by two industry groups, the Entertainment Merchants Association and the Entertainment Software Association.

The 2005 law, written by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, would have fined stores $1,000 for selling violent video games to minors. It was blocked from going into effect by an injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Ronald Whyte of San Jose.

Yee said Monday, “Unfortunately, the majority of the Supreme Court once again put the interests of corporate America before the interests of our children.”

Yee said he “absolutely” will consider proposing a narrower law that might pass muster with the high court.

“We’re poring through the opinions to see where we can create a pathway for a successful bill that could withstand a challenge,” Yee said.

But Michael Gallagher, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Entertainment Software Association, said, “This is a historic and complete win for the First Amendment and the creative freedom of artists and storytellers everywhere.”

Gallagher said, “The court declared forcefully that content-based restrictions on games are unconstitutional; and that parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children.”

Scalia said in the majority opinion that the California law didn’t fit into limited restrictions on free speech historically allowed by the courts to restrict obscenity and incitement to violence.

He wrote that the California law would have created “a wholly new category of content-based regulation.”

“That is unprecedented and mistaken,” Scalia wrote.

The court upheld similar rulings in which the ban was found unconstitutional by Whyte in 2007 and by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in 2009.

Two high court justices—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito—agreed in a concurring opinion that the law should be struck down, but said a narrower law might be found constitutional. Two other justices, Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas, dissented from the majority.

Yee said he will be studying the concurring and dissenting opinions to try to develop a revised bill.

“The evidence is absolutely crystal clear that there are harmful effects on our children,” Yee asserted.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

  • CC

    The best part of this issue is that there is no one making you buy the games
    If you feel these games are bad for you then don’t buy them.
    Same goes for cigarettes, booze, porn, guns, candy, soda pop, donuts, drugs, cars, planes, or any number of other things if used the wrong way can make your brain sick, injure, or kill you. Some choices just take longer than others.

  • JaneQPublic

    I think this is definitely a wrong-headed decision. Alcohol and cigarette sales to minors are BOTH prohibited. I wonder how the courts squared their decision about violent video gameswith THAT!

  • Constitution is for everyone

    Parenting begins at home. We need to get the government out of the parenting business. I do not like violent games, nor do I approve of them being used by minors. It is up to the parents of said minors to control whether or not they have access to them.

    By fining otherwise law abiding business owners, the government takes over parential rights to determine whether their children are able to have and use the items in queistion.

    It’s high time some conmmon sense has been used in governing this nation.
    Kudos to our Supreme Court for a just decision.

    Parents: Do your job and it won’t be necessary to have the government do it for you. I have three grown children and seven grandchilden, so I konw it can be done.

    I am sick and tired of government intrusion into our lives. We must dreaw the line somewhere.

  • Mad Mike

    Funny how Leland Yee was obsessed with finding out how much Sarah Palin was paid to speak at a nearby college fundraiser yet he has no problem blowing tens of million of dollars of taxpayer money on his crusade, and it looks like he is about to blow tens of millions more on a new law that will be challenged…..

  • Tours Martel

    Poor Jane, now she must do her own parenting! How ever will she fit in her pilates, spa sessions, yoga, and boyfriend/girlfriend, and still have time to monitor her children? If the village won’t do it for her, maybe she can lobby for “post-natal choice” and rid herself of all responsibility.

  • Mad Mike

    To further illustrate my point: Yee did this before and it cost the state $282K:

    How many of the precious firefighters, teachers and police that are being cut could have been saved had the state not had to pay for Yee’s crusade?

  • Mad Mike

    To clarify the above article only covers the cost to the gaming industry for their lawyers, it does NOT include how much money the state had to pay for ITS lawyers.

  • Jim Bob Duggar

    Leeland Yee is bad for my health, can I pass legislation making him illegal? He is doing to more to destroy our society by taking away freedoms. Out with Yee!

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