Video Software Dealers Association v. Maleng

325 F. Supp. 2d 1180 (W.D. Wash. 2004)

Summary: In this case, U.S. District Court Judge Lasnik struck down a law that prohibited the rental or sale to anyone under 17 of computer and video games containing depictions of violence against law enforcement officers.

History: A complaint was filed on June 5, 2003 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington in Seattle challenging Washington House Bill 1009.  The plaintiffs in the case included the Video Software Dealers Association, Interactive Digital Software Association, Washington Retail Association, Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association, International Game Developers Association, and Hollywood Entertainment Corporation. The defendants were Norm Maleng, in his capacity as King County prosecuting attorney; Washington governor Gary Locke; and Washington attorney general Christine O. Gregoire.

The bill would have prohibited the rental or sale to anyone under age 17 of computer and video games containing depictions of violence against law enforcement officers. The bill, was set to go into effect on July 27, but on July 11, U.S. District Court Judge Robert S. Lasnik granted the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction baring enforcement of the law.

On September 15, the plaintiffs filed a motion for summary judgment.  Members of the Media Coalition submitted an amicus brief January 30, 2004 in support of the plaintiffs.  Oral arguments were heard June 24 and July 19, Judge Lasnik granted the plaintiffs’ request for summary judgment, striking down the statute, on July 15, 2004.  Judge Lasnik pointed out that violence has been used throughout history to convey important social messages and that the Supreme Court has never upheld bans on violent depictions under obscenity laws.