The Work

July 8, 2009 6:33 PM

Davis Wright Partner Takes On Governator in First Amendment Flap

Posted by Brian Baxter

A seasoned First Amendment defender, Davis Wright Tremaine's Robert Corn-Revere has a long history of representing broadcast clients like Playboy and CBS in seminal First Amendment cases.

Now Corn-Revere is taking up the cause of another content-related realm, criticizing California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's call on the Supreme Court to save a law restricting access by minors to violent video games. (Hat Tip: Broadcasting & Cable.)

In February the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a district court ruling striking down on freedom of speech grounds a 2005 California law banning the sale and rental of violent games to minors. In May the state appealed the Ninth Circuit's decision to the Supreme Court, arguing that the same justifications for precluding sales of pornography to minors should be applied to violent video games. (Click here for a copy of the appeal, courtesy of Game Politics.)

"By prohibiting the sale of violent video games to children under the age of 18 and requiring these games to be clearly labeled, this law would allow parents to make better informed decisions for their kids," Schwarzenegger said in a statement supporting the appeal. "I will continue to vigorously defend this law and protect the well-being of California's kids."

Corn-Revere is not directly involved in the case. (Paul Smith, chair of the appellate practice and cochair of the creative content and media practice at Jenner & Block, is representing the video game industry defendants.)

But in a Speaking Freely opinion piece jointly published by The Media Institute and The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Speech, Corn-Revere accuses Schwarzenegger of trying to terminate the First Amendment.

Corn-Revere ominously cites the 1984 classic The Terminator, which helped launch Schwarzenegger's film career: "Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever."

He then compared the ruthless Terminator tactics made famous by Schwarzenegger on the silver screen to the Governator's ongoing campaign against violent video games.

"If California is successful, it will open the door to not just regulate video games, but a wide range of speech that is currently protected under the First Amendment," Corn-Revere writes. "In 2009, the killer cyborg turned governor has materialized in the present from the past in a plot to undermine the First Amendment."

While Schwarzengger seems intent on challenging the Ninth Circuit's ruling, Corn-Revere does have some experience in swaying governors towards his own cause.

In 2003 he helped convince former New York governor and current Chadbourne & Parke counsel George Pataki to pardon the late comedian Lenny Bruce for a 1964 obscenity conviction. It was the first posthumous pardon in New York history.

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