PAAIA Joins Amicus Brief in Support of Iranian American’s Right to a Fair Trial

Retrial sought based on juror’s derogatory statements about Iranians

July 21, 2009, Washington, D.C. – Today, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), along with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), and the Iranian American Jewish Federation (IAJF) filed a friend of the court brief in the case of MGA Entertainment Inc vs. Mattel Inc before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The brief argues that the court of appeals should overturn a 2008 jury verdict against MGA, whose chief executive officer, Isaac Larian, is an Iranian American, on grounds that MGA and Larian were denied a fair trial because of a juror making derogatory comments about, and exhibiting bias towards, Iranians during jury deliberations.

The amicus brief concerns a 2008 lawsuit in which Mattel alleged that MGA had engaged in copyright infringement with respect to their Bratz doll franchise. According to Mattel, MGA’s designer, Carter Bryant, had invented the concept of Bratz dolls while under contract with Mattel. During jury deliberations, a juror commented that her husband, an attorney, had represented Iranians who are “stubborn, rude, are thieves, and have stolen other person’s ideas.” Upon learning of the juror’s comments, MGA’s lawyers sought a mistrial arguing that the juror had hidden her tainted views against Middle Eastern immigrants during the jury selection process in which jurors were informed of Mr. Larian’s background and that “the tainted vote of even one juror is sufficient to nullify the verdict.” While the juror in question was dismissed from the case, the presiding judge chose not to grant a mistrial. MGA has appealed the trial court’s decision to the Ninth Circuit.

While the amicus brief filed today does not take a position on the underlying dispute in the case, it argues that the injection of ethnic prejudice into jury deliberations undermines a litigant’s constitutional right to an impartial jury and undermines public confidence in the judicial system. It points out that while the dismissal of the juror in question may have diminished the danger of biased deliberations in the trial’s later phases, it could not fix the verdict already reached, and under such circumstances, a new trail is the only remedy that can address the violation of the right to an impartial jury. The brief refers to other cases where the constitutional guarantee of an impartial jury was thwarted by jurors who harbored prejudice on the basis of race, ethnicity, or national origin.

PAAIA is dedicated to protecting the rights and advancing the interests of Iranian Americans in the United States. It being a bedrock principle of U.S. law that no person should be discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, or religion, PAAIA is committed to securing fair treatment under the law for Iranian Americans and combating any and all instances of bias or discrimination against them. By joining the amicus brief in this case, PAAIA is taking a firm stand against all forms of intolerance and sending a strong message that our community will not tolerate bias or discrimination against Iranian Americans.
PAAIA is pleased to have collaborated with the ADL, the IABA, and the IAJF on this brief and extends its gratitude to the law firm of Covington & Burling, LLP who prepared the brief as pro bono counsel.

Click here to download the amicus brief.

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