Jenner & Block

Court Strikes Down Illinois Violent Video Game Law as Unconstitutional

In a victory for the Firm’s video game industry clients, a federal court on December 2 issued a permanent injunction on constitutional grounds that blocks the State of Illinois from enforcing the Violent Video Games Law and Sexually Explicit Video Games Law. The laws were to go into effect on January 1, 2006.

The court ruled that the laws violated the video game makers’ First Amendment right to freedom of expression. In addition, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly ruled that the laws came “nowhere near”" to showing that video games cause violent or aggressive behavior in minors, whom the legislature designed the laws purportedly to protect.

According to the court’s opinion, the State lacks the authority to ban protected speech on the ground that it affects the listener’s or observer’s thoughts and attitudes. "If controlling access to allegedly ‘dangerous’ speech is important in promoting the positive psychological development of children, in our society that role is properly accorded to parents and families, not the State," Judge Kennelly concluded.

The laws would have subjected retailers and store clerks to criminal charges and fines for allowing minors to buy or rent video games designated “violent” or “sexually explicit,” and would have also required video game retailers to place labels on all games containing  “violent” or “sexually explicit” content.

Partners Paul M. Smith, Katherine A. Fallow, and David P. Sanders and Associates Kathleen R. Hartnett and Wade A. Thomson challenged the laws on behalf of the Entertainment Software Association, Video Software Dealers Association and Illinois Retail Merchants Association.

Jenner & Block is representing the video game industry in challenging similar laws in California and Michigan.  The court in Michigan recently granted the Firm’s motion for a preliminary injunction.  The Firm has successfully represented the video game industry to defeat similar legislative attempts to censor video games in Washington and Missouri.

Please click here to view the court’s decision.