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California appealing video game violence bill to the Supreme Court

May 20, 2009 |  3:54 pm

JerryBrown California is taking one last stab at saving the state's video game violence law.

Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown announced today that he would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Appeals Court and District Court rulings that invalidated the bill on 1st Amendment grounds.

"These video game makers are shamelessly exploiting vulnerable children for profit," Brown told The Times in an interview. "And in the same way pornography can be banned, pornographic violence can be banned as well."

The law, which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed in late 2005, requires that video games deemed by the state to be "violent" be labeled with the numeral "18." Retailers who sell or rent such games to anyone younger than 18 could be fined as much as $1,000.

Video game publishers and retailers have consistently opposed such laws by arguing that their voluntary ratings system, similar to the one used for movies, is sufficient and that games shouldn't be treated differently than other media.

"We are confident that this appeal will meet the same fate as the state's previous failed efforts to regulate what courts around the country have uniformly held to be expression that is fully protected by the 1st Amendment," said Michael D. Gallagher, chief executive and president of the Entertainment Software Assn., which represents game publishers.

Eight similar laws passed by other states and localities have been struck down by courts.

Should the Supreme Court agree to hear Brown's case, it would be the first before the nation's highest judges to deal with regulation of video games. Experts have clashed over whether games, because of their interactive nature, are more likely than other media to influence children to engage in violent behavior.

Brown said he was confident the Supreme Court would take the case.

"I think, as Justice [Robert H. Jackson] once said, that the Constitution is not a suicide pact," Brown stated. "Disseminating this kind of poison to children is noxious."

-- Ben Fritz

Photo: Jerry Brown. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press