Brown Wins U.S. Supreme Court Review of California's Ban on the Sale of Violent Video Games to Minors

Monday, April 26, 2010
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OAKLAND – Following nearly five years of court battles, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to grant the request of California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to review a state law prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to children.

Brown petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the case last year after California’s ban was struck down in federal court. The case is expected to be heard by the high court later this year.

“It is time to allow California’s common-sense law to go into effect and help parents protect their children from violent video games,” Brown said.

California’s petition for a writ of certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in May 2009 on behalf of the state of California. The case stems from a 2005 California law that requires violent video games to be labeled with an “18”, prohibits the sale or rental of these games to minors, and authorizes fines of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The Video Software Dealers Association (now part of the Entertainment Merchants Association) filed suit in federal court to block the law before it could go into effect.

On August 6, 2007, the U.S. District Court for Northern California invalidated California’s law. Brown immediately appealed the ruling. On February 20, 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court ruling.

Brown’s petition asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case and overturn the appellate court decision.

The petition argued that violent material in video games should be subject to the same flexible legal standard the courts have applied to limitations on sexually explicit material sold to children – that it is lawful for the state to determine that some content is harmful to children.

Currently, states may regulate the sale of sexually explicit magazines to children, but their authority to place similar limits on the sale of extremely violent video games is in dispute.

The U.S. Supreme Court has never addressed the question of whether extremely violent material sold to children can be treated the same as sexually explicit material. Brown’s petition asked the Court to resolve this question and hold that states can place reasonable restrictions on the distribution of extremely violent material to children.

A copy of Brown’s petition, filed last May, is attached.

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PDF icon n1906_brown_petition.pdf148.67 KB