Minnesota Appealing Video Game Law Ruling

April 11, 2008 -

The state of Minnesota has filed an appeal of a recent 8th Circuit Court decision which invalidated its 2006 "fine the buyer" video game law.

Perhaps more than any previous case, the unusual Minnesota law, which would fine underage buyers of violent games $25, has a chance to beat the video game industry's legal challenges.

As previously reported on GamePolitics, the Minnesota statute was signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on June 1st, 2006. The game industry immediately filed suit to block its implementation on constitutional grounds.

Eight weeks later a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Then-Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) filed an appeal.

In February, 2007 a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit heard arguments in the case. As GamePolitics reported at the time, audio of the hearing revealed the panel to be skeptical of some game industry arguments.

Last month the 8th Circuit issued its finding that the law was unconstitutional. But, as we noted in our coverage, the Court expressed a certain degree of sympathy for Minnesota's position, accepting research put forth by the state to a degree that no previous court has:
 

We believe that the State’s evidence provides substantial support for its contention that violent video games have a deleterious effect upon the psychological well-being of minors...

We are not as dismissive of that evidence as have been some of the courts that have found similar evidence to be inadequate to establish the causal link between exposure to violent video games and subsequent behavior.


Because the three-judge panel was bound by a prior 8th Circuit ruling in the 2003 IDSA vs. St. Louis County case, there was never really a doubt that they would find in favor of the video game industry. However the opinion written by Judge Wolman could be viewed as inviting the state to appeal en banc. If that were to occur, the case would be re-argued before the full 8th Circuit as opposed to a three-judge panel. This might be an attractive strategy for the state because only an en banc decision could reverse the earlier IDSA vs. St. Louis ruling.

Indeed, this process is already underway. We note that the Media Coalition's tracking of the case indicates that Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson (D, pictured) filed a petition for an en banc hearing on March 28th. This excerpt is taken from the state's en banc request:
 

The panel [stated] that it was bound by the precedent set by another panel of the Court in [IDSA] v. St. Louis County... Nevertheless, the panel questioned the analysis of the [IDSA] decision. (stating that [IDSA's] “requirement of such a high level of proof may reflect a refined estrangement from reality, but apply it we must”).

Because of the importance of the issue of whether the State can lawfully restrict minors’ access to extremely violent and patently offensive video games, this case should be considered by the entire Court.


The video game industry has until April 21st to respond the Minnesota's petition for an en banc hearing.  

In related news, the video game industry is seeking to recover $60,458.91 in legal fees from Minnesota, but A.G. Swanson has filed a motion to delay any action on that request while the en banc issue is resolved.

The bottom line?

Don't count Minnesota's video game law out just yet.

Comments

[...] wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptThe state of Minnesota has filed an appeal of a recent 8th Circuit Court decision which invalidated its 2006 “fine the buyer” video game law. Perhaps more than any previous case, the unusual Minnesota law, which would fine underage buyers of violent games $25, has a chance to beat the video game industry’s legal challenges. As previously reported on GamePolitics, the Minnesota statute was signed into law by Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) on June 1st, 2006. The game industry immediately filed suit to block its implementation on constitutional grounds. Eight weeks later a U.S. District Court judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional. Then-Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch (D) filed an appeal. In February, 2007 a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit heard arguments in the case. As GamePolitics reported at the time, audio of the hearing revealed the panel to be skeptical of some game industry arguments. Last month the 8th Circuit issued its finding that the law was unconstitutional. But, […] [...]

Ummm...they still haven't found out that the state's "evidence" is nonexistent? Gotta worry about today's judges...this is why there need to be upper age limits. Old dogs and all.

This is a strange, dumb law indeed.

I suppose the industry thinks that its implementation would lead to greater piracy, but I really don't see how something like this even gets enforced.

"...lawfully restrict minors’ access..."

How? I'm confused. Imposing a fine? So.. the police would have to be in the store.. and catch the minor in the act of purchasing it?

I hope I'm just retarded and that this makes sense some where along the line.

relax its not like the police have anything else to do right? . . . oh

Perhaps we should just use the $$ to provide free one-way tickets to China, Germany, or Brazil. These people would be happier living under the thumb of censorship.

@Rhade

Speaking of the Gamestop Police http://www.vgcats.com/comics/?strip_id=111

Here they go. I hope thier welfare budgets have enough money in them to pay the Game Industry's legal fees.

@ Ebonheart

LOL Thank you.

Minnesota, land of the goddamn retards.

“requirement of such a high level of proof may reflect a refined estrangement from reality, but apply it we must”

YODA?!

But seriously, if you're going to make a law that is in direct contradiction with any Constitutional Amendment, you'd better have irrefutable evidence that shows a direct, causal effect between Act A and Act B, in this case playing violent video games and commiting actual violence.

If this standard is "too high," TOUGH NOOGIES!

Constitutional? HA! I'm a senator, we don't worry about those kinds of nuisances.

wont somebody think of the children its important we take away everyones rights!!

Right... because why would we need evidence to go against the constitution. We should just be allowed to ban whatever we feel like. Right?

/ sarcasm

@ Deus

Ok we'll everything that could be construd as offensive, w'll start by banning clothing to appease nudists, then human anatomy to appease the people afraid of genetalia. And so on and so forth till not a thing exists any where.

i hope that not only the industry gets the 60 grand back

The industry needs to be more aggressive with their responses when they win-the latest efforts are better, but politicians and misguided parents need a firm written reminder that they are infinitely less important than the first amendment...

amen

Looks like the industry may have quite the challenge on their hands. I hope they're up to it. They have the ability to beat this nonsense--hell, it shouldn't even be a challenge to strike down this supposed "evidence"--yet here we are rehashing the legislation because even a panel of judges were taken in by the state's case.

Kinda makes you wonder if the industry half-assed it the first time around.

So does this stop them or is it just a hefty 50% sin tax?

In other news, Minnesota is missing a rather large portion of taxpayer money. No one knows where the money is going to but its speculated that the money will never return, this undoubtedly caused the people of Minnsota to be furious.

It seems contradictory to me that such a law would punish underage offenders with a fine. If the path around the First Amendment is to say that a minor technically is not a full citizen, and therefore does not enjoy the full rights of a citizen (a la the Scalia comments we've read about third-hand here at GP), don't you also need to allow for the fact that their parents or legal guardians control -- essentially own -- all of the minors' assets? When a minor gets fined for any other crime, it is his parents who are ultimately responsible to to pay it. How can you fine someone who technically does not own his own money?

But the bigger problem with this law is distinguishing the "extremely violent" games it is designed to restrict. Which games are going to be restricted? Who is going to come up with that list? The State cannot simply co-opt the ESRB ratings, since those are privately owned by the ESRB, and also because it's easy to argue that many "M" rated games are not "extremely violent." I think it would be very expensive and time-consuming to argue that any "M"-rated game is "patently offensive," since all "M" rated games are released to the mainstream and can be assumed to have some sort of SLAPS value. For the law to work, it seems to me the State would have to prove the "extremely violent" or "patently offensive" nature of each game individually.

So even if the Minnesota courts do defy common sense and allow this legislation to skirt the First Amendment, the law still must be shot down because it is too vague to be unenforceable. "Extremely violent" and "patently offensive" are subjective. Unless the State of Minnesota wants to devote resources to arguing in court about each individual game it wants to restrict, I see no way to enforce this law, because there is no way to determine which games it applies to and which it does not.

So, despite GP's fair warning, I am pretty much ready to count Minnesota's out, at least as it stands now. It just plain can't work.

Of course they are, because it is a politicians job to waste tax payer money on useless crap legislation. Why spend it on roads, schools, health care, and other practical things? That would make WAY to much sense.

I can see it now: droves of gamers going to Wisconsin and Winnipeg to get their gaming fix, because they can't get it in Minneapolis or Fargo.

Incidentally, is the fine the only punishment, or do they also take the game away from the kid? I would've risked an extra $25 to get my hands on Killer Instinct when I was 14.
---
Fangamer

Minnesota's appealing? First time for everything I guess...

I think the only way this will truly be solved is with qualitative scientific research. Take 600 children, raise them from birth separated into 6 groups. The experiment must take place in controlled & enclosed conditions so there'd have to be a school they all went to together/

The first control group is raised with love like children in regular balanced households with an even mix of nuclear family, single parent & same sex couples and no games. The second control group is raised with similarly diverse families with parental abuse and no games

Third comes the love+games group, in this instance purely non-violent games. The 4th group is a contrast to the third with loving environment + purely violent games (For the record, this is the group I want to be in)

The 5th & 6th group features the abusive parents and non-violent games & abusive parents + violent games

The children are raised until the age of 16 and then on thier 16th birthday, they're given an AK74.

@ Aliasalpha

"Minnesota’s appealing? First time for everything I guess…"

LOL Zing!

BTW.. You might be wise to sell that premise to FOX for the next round of reality TV.

Simon Roberts says:
Incidentally, is the fine the only punishment, or do they also take the game away from the kid? I would’ve risked an extra $25 to get my hands on Killer Instinct when I was 14.


I was thinking the same thing. If the only punishment is the fine they are teaching kids it is okay to be violent as long as you pay a little extra. Money really does make the world go 'round.

they really need to attack the credibility of the violence linking studies if thats what the judges are waffling on. theres no shortage of studies that say games do nothing.

if it does pass here it could be a horrible precedent. and it could even work it's way to the supreme court.

the game industry shouldn't get lazy or over confident after the other rulings.

I wouldn't worry. I doubt the law will ever be passed because they would have to do this with movies and music too.

@ AliasAlpha

What would that one kid be who doesn't act a thing like the enviroment? IE the kid who was abused and not raised with games, becoming non abusive very loving very caring with a strong love for games.

@ IllegallyMindedJohn

Sin tax.

@ Stinking Kevin

I dunno if anyone has mentioned this but, technically...you don't own your children under those circumstances. The Reason the state can come in and take children away from parents or legal Guardians is that -technically- the government owns your children with Parens Patriae which is a law that dates back to 18th century England that we kept. They don't actually need a reason to come in and take yer kids away o_O;;

And I'm not really sure what the problem with fining a kid for a violent video game is...except that the government can't back the ESRB Rating...

@ Seiena

The problem with fining kids is that there is no proof that it will make them violent.

I live in Minneapolis, I gotta say its a great city and I would much rather be in this state than many others but this is ridiculous... they've got a lot of nerve wasting our tax dollars when we just had a bridge collapse which still needs to be rebuilt, and we're starting construction on a new goddamned baseball stadium.

Also @ Simon Roberts. I don't know what you're implying, but theres tons of large cities in the state and Fargo isn't even IN Minnesota.

"The best government is one which governs least." - Thomas Jefferson

It's sad to see the U.S. has lost the ideals of its' founding fathers.

Could it be possable to sue legistrators for passing unconsituational laws...at least the one who keeps pushing for their failed bills/laws?

Based on the case that they are knowingly wasting our tax payer dollers?

@ Seiena

I've heard of something similar in effect, but unrelated. It's pretty jacked. Yet another reason that Americans should be uniformly pro-gun rights.

This law isn’t practical even if it did pass.

Someone would have to send in the legal hounds to get the fine thing going. But who?

The retailer? Pretty unlikely. They’d definitely lose a customer and why would they sell it in the first place if they were just going to cause a fuss?

The kid? Uh, sure. Like some kid is going to buy an M rated game and then bring an action against himself.

The parents? Pretty doubtful. If junior is shopping by himself, I seriously doubt Mom and Dad care what he’s buying or playing. Even if they did, unless junior bought the game with Mommy’s credit card they couldn’t prove he bought it. He could have found it or a friend could have given it to him.

If I remember correctly, the law just stipulates a $25 fine. It doesn’t confiscate the game. So basically Minnesota is saying, “It’s okay for kids to buy M rated games as long as they pay $25 over the MSRP.”


Andrew Eisen

Ohh this is a great law, instead of catching murderers and rapists, the police will use their budget to collect money from children... why its like taking candy from a baby... and the state doesn't even need to steal money from the health care system causing many people to die(like another state that tried to pass an anti-game law) in order to start passing some more unconstitutional laws...

This will be defeated just like every other attempt has been defeated before it. It's a complete waste of taxpayer money. The industry and the ESRB should take politicians like this to task for their hubris.

@Seiena:

I'm certainly no expert, but isn't it a bit of a mischaracterization to say that parens patriea means the government "owns" your kids and can take them away for no reason?

In its present-day application, at least, I thought parens patriae was more of a concept than a "law the we kept." In our legal system, I thought it was just the Latin name for the idea that state has an obligation to make decisions in a child's best interests when it is demonstrated (that is, when there is ample reason to believe) that the decisions being made by his parents or legal guardians are not. (As in all that sad business with that poor Spears girl, for example?)

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that it seemed to me like a contradiction in principle, to disallow kids some of their rights as citizens but then hold them responsible as citizens to pay a fine.

To put it another way: Regardless of who legally "owns" a child (your choice of words, not mine), the child himself doesn't technically own his own money, does he? If not, how is he going to pay the fine?

OK, so maybe that's not a very good point after all, I'll admit, but I'm not sure it's cause to try to scare everyone in Minnesota with the invocation of some 300-year-old "divine right" doctrine from monarchical England. :)

@DarknessDeku
The problem with fining kids is that there is no proof that it will make them violent."
@DarknessDeku

There is actually quite a bit of proof saying that if you push someone than they push back... So fining kids will make them more violent...

Also whenever anyone is told that they can't have something, they immediately start to want it... which means those kids will become illegal game dealers...

So the state will pass tougher laws which will send kids to juvenile detention facilities for buying Halo and the like... and hardcore prison for the game dealers... even if they are 10...


@Rhade
"Yet another reason that Americans should be uniformly pro-gun rights."
@Rhade
Agreed.

Not to suggest the Judges don't take their job seriously but...

Do they really expect to get an "en banc" hearing for a video game law? I just don't see that happening, you have to have a pretty serious claim to be given that kind of hearing.

Maybe, maybe if there wasn't so much case law arguing against this, if there was just that one prior case, it might happen. But with these laws being 0-9 I just don't see the Judges agreeing to hear what is basically a dead issue.

@ shady8x

I hope you are joking. That's the most unrealistic thing I've ever heard in my life.

@DarknessDeku
The "fining kids will make the more violent" is joke, I know you were talking about games not the fines themselves...

The rest is sort of a joke, it is more of a play on the prohibition or the anti-drug policies... a funny one I hope...

Though about 1/3 of criminals in jail right now are there because of similar unrealistic laws... so while it may be a joke I wouldn't put it in the realm of impossible... These protect the children campaigns can get rather ridiculous...

@ LightWarrior

"Could it be possable to sue legistrators for passing unconsituational laws…at least the one who keeps pushing for their failed bills/laws?"

Of course it's possible. You can (are able) to sue almost anyone for anything. It doesn't mean your suit has merit or that it will succeed, but you can go ahead and file.

I'm a MN resident. Could someone direct me to a place (email address or webpage) where I can give them a piece of my mind?

@Aliasalpha

I take it you've undergone the MMPI. :P

@DarknessDeku
"I hope you are joking. That’s the most unrealistic thing I’ve ever heard in my life."
@DarknessDeku

Read this article or watch the video and be very very afraid...
http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Story?id=3693516&page=1
done? feel free to move to another country now...(if this still happens when I have kids then I will either home school them or leave this crazy country...god i hope Obama fixes it...)

Some highlights:
Most terrifying part: 4 year olds hugging teachers gets them labeled us sexual predators these days...

Main story: 12 and 13 year olds get sent to jail for 6 days(before bail was allowed) without access to their parents or a lawyer and get strip searched about 6 times(probably cavity searched since those go together) and why?

(easier to read this but more detailed on the abc website)
The school they went to had a slap the butt day, and after someone slaps you on the butt you must slap others and this has been a fun game/tradition in the school for a while before these boys went to the school, a game in which all of the girls that were 'victims' participated in... so these two boys slapped the butts of a few girls...
sarcasm: my god the horror.../sarcasm

->What I mentioned above is the standard treatment, but the district attorney tried to send them both to prison till they were 25 and have them labeled as sexual predators... and though after fighting this for a half a year, the families saved their children, the judge ruled that there was no misconduct and that the district attorney did the right thing in seeking charges that go far beyond what most adult serial rapists get...not to mention murderers...

What is really 'unrealistic' is our belief that justice still happens in this country...
It seems these days unrealistic means that it will not happen to most children though it will happen to a few 'insignificant' thousands(soon to be millions) of them...

P.S. If you read the comments to that story on abc you will notice some parents posting that this happened to their little(under 13) children which will for the rest of their lives be labeled us sexual predators for slapping a girls butt, which while inappropriate doesn't make them the pariah that they will be as long as they live... I mean they will be judged equally to a murdering serial rapist...and be punished worse than most murderers...

Lesson to learn: instead of teaching kids useless words like moma or papa, they should be taught 'i want my lawyer' and 'I plead the fif' though such things as 'teacher x molested me' will bring them the needed leverage when they are tried before a court of their pears(don't count on them being older than 4)

so, I am sorry but it seems your beliefs are the unrealistic ones... surprisingly to me and unfortunately to all...

It's 10 am Minnesotans, do you know where your tax payer money is going?

It really disappoints me the way this country is going. I worried that this country will go to hell in the next four years if things continue like this. In that case we should all travel to the Netherlands, an overall superior country when it comes to human rights and freedom. It's not perfect but it's better then some places.
 
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