Political Lines Blur as Justices Weigh Violence for Minors; California Limits Video-Game Sales

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

Political Lines Blur as Justices Weigh Violence for Minors; California Limits Video-Game Sales


Byline: Ben Conery, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Supreme Court justices differed along uncommon lines on Tuesday when considering arguments about whether to strike down a California law that prohibits the sale of violent video games to minors.

A mix of liberals and conservatives appeared to support arguments from both sides.

Conservative bulwark Justice Antonin Scalia spoke most strongly against the law, which he worried ran afoul of the Constitution on free speech grounds and because it is unclear to which games the law applies.

It has never been understood that the freedom of speech did not include portrayals of violence, Justice Scalia said. You are asking us to create a whole new prohibition which the American people never ratified when they ratified the First Amendment.

Justice Scalia's position seemed to find support among Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, both of whom are considered reliably liberal justices. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, frequently the court's swing vote, also expressed concerns that the law was too vague.

In a sarcastic exchange, Justice Scalia suggested to California Deputy Attorney General Zackery Morazzini a method to determine which video games are subject to the law.

You should consider creating such a one. You might call it the California office of censorship, he said. It would judge each of these videos one by one. That would be very nice.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, one of the court's most liberal justices, called on common sense in expressing support for the law. He questioned what common sense there was in allowing state laws to prevent minors from buying a picture of a naked woman, but not allowing states to prevent minors from buying a video game that features graphic violence.

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