Tag Archives | supreme court

Supreme Court Strikes Down Violent Game Law, Hopefully Stops the Madness

When the U.S. Supreme Court agreed last year to rule on a California law that would restrict the sale of violent video games to minors, I was relieved. Finally, I assumed, the nation’s highest court would rule that violent video games should get the same First Amendment protections as movies and books, instead of being regulated like pornography.

Turns out, my assumption was correct. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s violent video game law for good, with seven of nine justices in agreement. If you love video games and despise the way they’ve been demonized by politicians, read the first couple pages of the decision. It’s quite cathartic.

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How 42-Year-Old Porn Might Screw Video Games

“Censors are, of course, propelled by their own neuroses. That is why a universally accepted definition of obscenity is impossible. Any definition is indeed highly subjective, turning on the neurosis of the censor.”

So said U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Douglas in 1968, arguing against most of his colleagues who felt that selling nude magazines to minors should be a criminal offense. The courts, he said, should not decide what’s suitable for people to read. That decision is best left to parents or religious groups.

As today’s Supreme Court grappled with the legality of selling violent video games to minors, Douglas’ dissent in Ginsburg v. New York seemed as relevant as ever.

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The High Court's Lack of Tech Knowlege is Troubling

Remember that sexting story I shared with you Monday? Well, our nation’s highest court heard those arguments Tuesday. What we learned from their performance on the bench is that a significant number of them have a very rudimentary understanding–if any at all–of technology.

If this is the case, we should be quite concerned that this court just doesn’t have the knowleddge to accurately rule on what is likely to become an ever-increasingly tech-heavy caseload as high-tech works even further into the fabric of our lives.

Here’s just some of the surprisingly basic questions asked by justices, according to DC Dicta:

Chief Justice John Roberts, who has written out his opinions with pen and paper: “What is the difference between e-mail and a pager?”

Justice Anthony Kennedy, failing to understand the basic concept of a text message: “[If messages are sent simultaneously], does it say: ‘Your call is important to us, and we will get back to you?'”

Justice Antonin Scalia, asking about those sexts: “Could Quon print these spicy little conversations and send them to his buddies?”

If our highest court cannot grasp the most basic concepts of technology, I highly question how they could provide fair judgments on any matter involving tech. This makes me very nervous.

We cannot completely blame the Court for its failings. Most of the justices are over the age of 70. However, at the same time, you need to stay current when you’re in a position to make decisions that affect the entire country.

President Obama is going to have to select a new justice very soon. Let’s hope the one he picks at least knows what e-mail is.


Supreme Court to Hear 'Sexting' Case

The Supreme Court today is set to hear arguments surrounding a case involving so-called ‘sexting’ on a company-owned pager, of which the decision they make could have broad implications for employee privacy rights in the workplace.

California SWAT Sergeant Jeff Quon was given a pager by his employer, the Ontario, Calif. police department. While the device was meant for work use, Quon was found to have sent sexually-charged text messages to both his wife and his mistress.

Apparently, Quon sent so many texts that it triggered overage charges and an investigation into excessive texting within the department. While Quon did pay for the overage charges out of his own pocket, he complained that he thought the message content was confidential.

He and his mistress — a dispatcher — sued the department and the paging company over privacy violations, as well as another police officer for an unrelated matter. A lower court decided in favor of the employees in 2008, but the defendants appealed.

Now the Supreme Court will hear the case, which could vastly affect employee rights. As technology becomes more prevalent allowing employees to work from anywhere, work-provided electronics are seeing more and more personal use. While many companies provide clear-cut policies on personal use, some do not.

Some go as far as to use the information they find by peering onto their employee’s devices as grounds for termination. But in recent court cases, the courts have sided with the employees generally, making it hard for employers to use damaging information they find.

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, I believe the responsibility lies on the employee. You should know your company’s policies on proper use of company-provided equipment. If that means no personal use, then for the sake of your job security, you buy your own.

However, if there is no policy — or lax polices as in the case of the Ontario Police Department — use your head. Sending a multitude of sexually explicit text messages is definitely not. Don’t be so damn stupid!