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Supreme Court Term Is Pro-Business and Pro-Free Speech

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June 27, 2011

The Supreme Court ended the 2010 term today, delivering the much-anticipated decision in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association, a case that challenged California’s ban of the sale of violent video games to minors. In a 7-2 decision, the Court found the state’s law violated the First Amendment. The Court called California’s attempt to put video games in a new category not protected by the First Amendment “unpersuasive.”

ACLU Legal Director Steve Shapiro said in a statement today: This is a Court that takes an expansive view of the First Amendment. It is particularly sensitive to any claim that the government is using its power to censor unpopular speakers or unpopular speech.”

That approach was also reflected in the Court’s decision in Snyder v. Phelps, announced earlier this term, upholding the right of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church to protest at the funeral of a slain Iraqi soldier carrying signs that said “God Hates Fags” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

Steve also noted the Court’s pro-business stance this term, saying: “Unfortunately, the instinct to protect business interests often comes at the expense of ordinary citizens looking for justice.”

In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Court ruled against a group of female former Wal-Mart employees who sought to bring a class action lawsuit charging the retailer discriminated against women in stores around the country, paying them less than male workers and promoting them less frequently. The Court ruled the women could not proceed as a class action, which will make it more difficult to challenge discrimination.

Likewise, in AT&T Mobility LLC v. Concepcion, the Court found in favor of the telecom, finding that companies can effectively shield themselves from consumer class action lawsuits simply by including a clause in the standard consumer contract that all claims must be resolved through individual arbitrations. When the amount at stake is less than $40, as it was in this case, most consumers will simply give up.

You can see all of the ACLU’s briefs on our Supreme Court page, and we’ll be releasing Steve’s 2010 term wrap-up later today, so stay tuned!

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