Interactive Digital Software Association v. St. Louis County, Missouri

329 F.3d 954 (8th Cir. 2003), rev’g 200 F. Supp. 2d 1126 (E.D. Mo. 2002)

Summary: This case involves ESA’s (formerly IDSA) challenge to a St. Louis County ordinance making it unlawful to knowingly sell, rent, make available, or permit the “free play of” video games with violent content to or by minors without the consent of a parent or guardian.

History: Judge Stephen Limbaugh of the U.S. District Court in St. Louis denied plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment, holding that the video games were not First Amendment-protected and, in any event, that violent material could be regulated. Subsequently, the judge, on his own volition, dismissed the case. Plaintiffs appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, where arguments were heard on March 12, 2003.

On June 3, the three judge panel from the Eighth Circuit reversed Judge Limbaugh, ruling that the ordinance is unconstitutional. Judge Morris S. Arnold wrote in his opinion that video games could not be denied First Amendment protection simply because they are interactive, and that depictions of violence cannot legally be considered obscene for either minors or adults. The Eighth Circuit ordered Judge Limbaugh to issue an injunction against enforcement of the statute. St. Louis County officials appealed this decision on June 25, 2003 and asked for a re-argument en banc before the Eighth Circuit.  Both motions were denied.