'Borat' judge: no suit for you

Rejects students' injunction request

No word of whether studio attorneys exchanged high fives, but a Los Angeles judge has nixed an effort by two college students to obtain an injunction against 20th Century Fox's "Borat."

Identified in their suit against Fox only as members of a fraternity at the University of South Carolina, the plaintiffs sought to prevent further distribution of the film until scenes showing them making racist or otherwise unflattering comments were deleted or altered. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph Biderman denied the request, noting that an injunction can be issued only in "extraordinary" circumstances.

"In order to obtain a preliminary injunction, a party must show (a) reasonable probability of success on the merits," Biderman wrote. "In this case, the court finds that plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden of proof."

The ruling follows an injunction hearing held Thursday. The parties are scheduled to meet Feb. 27 for a conference on the status of the case.

Fox is being represented in the case by the Los Angeles law firm of Louis Petrich of Leopold Petrich & Smith. The plaintiffs' attorney is Olivier Taillieu of Zuber & Taillieu in Beverly Hills.

Fox also has been sued by residents of a Romanian village who participated in the movie and contend that they were duped into portraying unflattering figures in the film's fictional Kazakhstan scenes. But there, too, the studio has managed to fend off an immediate threat to its boxoffice bonanza as a federal judge in New York has ruled that case can't go forward unless the plaintiffs refile with more specific allegations.

"Borat," Sacha Baron Cohen's mockumentary about a high-fivin' Kazak journalist who tours the U.S., has rung up more than $220 million in worldwide revenue since unspooling Nov. 3. Cohen is developing "Bruno," a film based on another of his comedic characters, for Universal.

In the college students' "Borat" suit, legal arguments hinge on matters related to consent forms signed by those interviewed. The plaintiffs allege that film participants were improperly duped into cooperating with the production, but a temporary restraining order against the film's continued distribution also was denied when the suit was first filed Nov. 9.

The students are identified in their suit — originally filed in Santa Monica but transferred to Los Angeles for the injunction hearing — only as John Does 1 and 2. But in Fox's court filings, studio attorneys identified the plaintiffs as Chi Psi fraternity members Justin Seay and Christopher Rotunda, and they suggested the latter misidentified himself to "Borat" producers.
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