When she arrived at the Supreme Court building in Washington, DC., Mercurio was amazed at the sheer number of people who had gathered respectfully on the steps, holding signs that read "Videogames Are Art" and wearing red ECA t-shirts. "If there's a presence on the steps, it helps basically set the stage, set the feel in the air. I do know that it made a positive impact, just psychologically," Mercurio said.
There are several ways to get in to witness the proceedings: You can obtain a rare "Golden Ticket" from the Supreme Court Marshal if you are connected to the case, attorneys of the Supreme Court Bar wait in line for a small number of seats, and the rest of the small number of seats are given to the public on a first-come first-served basis. "I drove up a little before 9 am and there was an enormous line snaking down the steps of the Supreme Court all the way down the block," she recalled. She has been to many Supreme Court oral arguments, but Mercurio swears that she has never seen that many people clamoring to be let in just to witness them.
When she got inside the building, Mercurio was glad that she had a ticket, for even the attorneys' line was extremely long. "So many people wanted to get in, whether they were affiliated or unaffiliated in the case, to see this particular oral argument," Mercurio said. "It's really history in the making here regarding the First Amendment and a whole new medium of speech." The issue at stake is important for so many people and the palpable feel of excitement and anticipation followed Mercurio into the majestic Supreme Court room itself.
The State of California, represented by Zackery P. Morazzini, was the first to speak. He outlined the case for the law and then answered a series of questions from the Justices. "This morning," he said, "California asks this Court to adopt a rule of law that permits States to restrict minors' ability to purchase deviant, violent videogames that the legislature has determined can be harmful to the development - "
Justice Scalia interrupted him with a pointed question, "What's a deviant, violent videogame? As opposed to what? A normal violent videogame?" From there, it seemed like the Justices were on the attack, probing Morazzini's arguments for faulty logic.
Supreme Court Justices generally range in age from middle-aged to extremely old and they are often seen as out-of-touch or stuffy. The kinds of cases that they typically argue about are honestly boring, according to Mercurio, for anyone who doesn't care a whit about contract law. But if you think that the discussion on the First Amendment rights of videogames held in that austere chamber would be dry and filled with legal mumbo-jumbo, then you'd be sorely mistaken.
"Talking about videogames is kind of fun," Mercurio said with a laugh. "The Justices found it interesting and were tremendously engaged. It was amazing to behold."
Justice Scalia, for example, is known as a Constitutional Originalist, meaning that he interprets the Constitution and its Amendments as our country's founders might have. Of course, the primary author of the Constitution, James Madison, would have had no basis on how to judge videogames, which fellow Justice Alito pointed out in a quip: "I think what Justice Scalia wants to know is what James Madison thought about videogames. Did he enjoy them?"