NEW YORK – A group of lawyers in Chicago wants a jury to decide if The Sopranos is offensive to Italian-Americans.
The lawyers, Italian-Americans themselves, have filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Time Warner Entertainment Co., parent company of HBO, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
The group, called the American Italian Defense Association (AIDA), isn't asking for monetary damages. Instead, the lawyers simply want a jury to declare that The Sopranos does, indeed, offend Italian-Americans.
"HBO says [The Sopranos] is an original series, and that's why we brought an original lawsuit," said attorney Enrico Mirabelli of the Chicago law firm of Nadler, Pritikin & Mirabelli.
He was referring to the unusual nature of the suit, which the lawyers are basing on a section of the Illinois state constitution that's known as the "individual dignity" clause.
"Communications that portray criminality, depravity or lack of virtue in . . . a group of persons by reason of or by reference to religious, racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation are condemned," the section says.
Mirabelli told the Sun-Times no lawsuit of this kind has ever been attempted, although the newspaper reported that one suit was brought under the dignity clause - the case of an African-American who sued over a racial epithet directed at him. The case was dismissed.
The lawsuit represents a new approach in the ongoing protests mounted by Italian-American groups against The Sopranos. The groups say the show is offensive to Italian-Americans because of its depiction of an Italian mob family in northern New Jersey.
"We are very proud of The Sopranos," read a prepared statement from HBO in response to the Chicago lawsuit. "We're hardly alone in our assessment that the show is an extraordinary artistic achievement."