For those who couldn’t make the trip, transcripts from today’s Schwarzenegger v. EMA hearing at the Supreme Court are now available online.
It’s November 2 and if you’ve been paying any attention at all you’ll know that means it’s the Big Day: The day that attorneys for the state of California and the videogame industry present their arguments over the constitutionality of California’s proposed videogame law to the Supreme Court of the United States. Pretty heady stuff.
Fortunately, for those interested in such matters – and that really should be all of you – the full transcript of the arguments is now available at Scribd. It’s not exactly a fun read but it is thought-provoking, illustrating the many concerns about the law held by all three sides in the debate. Justice Antonin Scalia got things rolling when he asked Zackery P. Morazzini, the Deputy Attorney General of California, what exactly constitutes “deviant” violence under the law, pointing out that many of Grimm’s fairy tales are in fact “quite grim” themselves.
“I’m concerned about the producer of games who has to know what he has to do in order to comply with the law… A law that has criminal penalties has to be clear,” he said. “And how is the manufacturer to know whether a particular violent game is covered or not?”
Justice Elena Kagan also pressed Morazzini about what would be excluded from First Amendment protections under the law, noting that the state’s definition of “morbid violence” was vague. “How do we separate violent games that are covered from violent games just as violent that are not covered?” she asked.
But the Court hammered away at the game industry as well, asking attorney Paul M. Smith why exactly it believed that the government shouldn’t have the right to keep videogames that include such acts as setting schoolgirls on fire and then urinating on them out of the hands of ten-year-olds. Justice Samuel Alit also noted that the medium of videogames was utterly beyond the imaginings of the men who created the First Amendment.
“We have here a new – a new medium that cannot possibly have been envisioned at the time when the First Amendment was ratified,” Alito said. “So this presents a question that could not have been specifically contemplated at the time when the First Amendment was adopted. And to say, well, because nobody was – because descriptions in a book of violence were not considered a category of speech that was appropriate for limitation at the time when the First Amendment was violated is entirely artificial.”
The arguments have been made and the matter is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, but it’s still interesting to see how both sides argued their cases and how the judges responded to each. And we still have plenty of time to discuss the matter and make predictions: A ruling isn’t expected to be made until at least February 2011.