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Four organizations representing Jewish and Iranian Americans have filed an amicus brief before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit arguing that a federal judge who dismissed a juror during deliberations for having described Iranians as “stubborn,” “rude” and thieves of others’ ideas should also have granted a new trial for the plaintiff, who was born in Iran. The case involves the long-running copyright dispute between MGA Entertainment Inc., manufacturer of the Bratz doll, and Barbie doll maker Mattel Inc. In July 2008, a federal jury found that MGA had violated Mattel’s copyright and was deliberating about damages when one juror, referred to in court documents as “Juror No. 8,” declared that her husband believes Iranians to be “stubborn, rude, and who have stolen other person’s ideas.” MGA’s chief executive, Isaac Larian, is Iranian-American. U.S. District Judge Stephen Larson of the Central District of California dismissed the juror but denied MGA’s motion for a mistrial. Larson later upheld a $100 million jury verdict for Mattel. On appeal before the 9th Circuit, MGA has argued for a new trial. Among the reasons are that “there was no reason for Juror No. 8 — in the heat of deliberations about whether Larian stole Mattel’s ideas — to spread the venomous slur about Iranians stealing ideas, if she did not believe it applicable to this Iranian,” MGA said in its July 10 opening brief. On July 21, the Anti-Defamation League, the Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans, the Iranian American Jewish Federation and the Iranian American Bar Association filed an amicus brief supporting MGA’s argument regarding Juror No. 8. “This is an unusual situation where the court learned of this overt racism that had been expressed by one juror,” said Simon Frankel, a partner in the San Francisco office of Washington’s Covington & Burling, who represents all four amicus organizations. “And the amici whom we represent believe that this kind of attitude has absolutely no place in the jury room and should be taken seriously, and that it didn’t really make sense for the district judge to conclude that a juror who could bring this up in deliberations could both not be biased and have no affect on jury deliberations.” In their brief, the amicus organizations said that Juror No. 8′s statements demonstrate actual bias against Larian’s ethnicity, particularly since the focus was on the heart of the case: alleged stolen ideas. Furthermore, they said, her statements likely influenced the other jurors. “In particular,” they said in court papers, “why would she state that Iranians ‘steal other people’s ideas’ in the midst of deliberations in a high-stakes case concerning whether Mr. Larian had participated in taking ideas and concepts from Mattel, if she did not mean to affect the jury’s deliberations?” Amanda Bronstad can be reached at [email protected]

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