It's easy to get caught up in all the drama of Congress. It's even easier to get caught up in what's going on with the President, day to day. But sometimes all the action is in that third branch of government: the Judiciary.
Over at the Supreme Court, they have upheld the sale of violent video games to youth -- which is a kind of deceptive way to say what they really did.
The U.S. Supreme Court, wrapping up its current term, has struck down California's ban on the sale of violent video games to children. A divided court majority said the law violates the Constitution's guarantee of free expression.
See, they didn't so much "uphold" the sale of violent video games to young people... I mean, Antonin Scalia is not moonlighting at Game Stop pimping Red Dead Redemption. You're not going to see Sonia Sotomayor playing Call of Duty: Black Ops.
What they said, actually, was that the federal government had no broad mandate -- no real ability -- to regulate the "speech" of video games. From the NPR piece linked above:
Writing for five members of the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said video games are like books, plays and movies, expression protected by the First Amendment, and the government has "no free-floating power" to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.
You know I hate to agree with a guy like Scalia, here, but it's hard not to follow the logic. He's right: we've tried for a long time to regulate this kind of stuff, and it hasn't always worked out very well.
It does make me feel better that I also agree with much of Justice Breyer's dissent:
But Justice Breyer's dissent took a different tack. He said the California law was "no more than a modest restriction on expression" and that the legislature –- and not the judiciary –- is best equipped to evaluate psychological studies on the effect of violent video games on youths.
"This court has always thought it owed an elected legislature some degree of deference," said Breyer, particularly on matters that "involve technical matters that are beyond our competence, even in First Amendment cases."
In other words, Congress needs to figure out how to keep kids safe. I like to think I have a unique view on this. I like stupid, violent video games. I do, and I don't apologize for it. Games are fun.
But I'm also a father. Now, Emeline is way too young for even the youngest of video games, but she'll be old enough for them soon enough. What do I want for my kids? Well, what I want is for games to be well-labeled so that if they're in my house, I know that they either are or are not appropriate for my kids.
What I want more than that, though, is to raise a kid responsible enough to know better. We'll see how that goes for me.
In other legal news (and speaking of Scalia), a former Scalia clerk, now a Bush-appointed federal judge, has upheld the individual insurance mandate of the health care law.
For the first time, a Republican appointed federal judge -- part of a three-judge circuit court panel -- has ruled that the individual insurance mandate in President Obama's health care law is constitutional.
The Sixth Circuit appellate court panel -- the first appellate court to rule on the question -- dismissed the plaintiffs' claim that levying a penalty against people who choose not to purchase insurance exceeds Congress' Commerce Clause powers. The justices also dismissed the underlying argument that the provision amounts to "regulating inactivity."
It's a little hard to overstate just how big a win this is for President Obama. There are a lot of currently elected Republican politicians -- looking at you Governor hospital grifter Rick Scott, and robot Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi -- who really hung their hands on repealing "Obamacare," and that was dealt a pretty heavy blow today.
The development represents a significant victory for the Obama administration, which is facing numerous challenges to the mandate from individuals, conservative interest groups and Republican governors. A number of district court judges have ruled on the question already, and in a striking pattern, all Republican-appointed judges have ruled against the administration, and all Democratic judges with the administration. Today's development upends that trend.
NPR, again, investigates these results further:
Indeed, the importance of Wednesday's ruling could be seen in how the opposing forces reacted. There was a deafening silence from most opponents of the law for much of the day, though the Cato Institute's Ilya Shapiro posted a blog entry calling Sutton's opinion "shocking."
In contrast, supporters of the health law were jubilant and talkative.
It'll be interesting to see how the early GOP presidential candidates react to this.