The lawyer said her comedian client's boast about crashing the Academy Awards was just a joke. But the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was not amused. And neither was the judge.
On Wednesday, in the latest skirmish between fame and freedom of speech, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Auerlio Munoz ordered comic Scott Kerman, author of a tongue-in-cheek gate crashing guide, to stay away from the Oscars this year.
It is believed to be the first time the academy has won a court order keeping out a potential gate crasher, academy spokesman Ric Robertson said.
After brief arguments by attorneys for Kerman and the academy, the judge ordered that Kerman come no closer than across the street from the Shrine Auditorium until after March 25. The Oscars are awarded the evening of March 23.
The judge noted that for Kerman, 30, to stroll across the stage in front of millions of television viewers and flash his book would be "the ultimate crash."
In the book "No Ticket? No Problem!" Kerman says he has sneaked into more than 300 concerts and sporting events--as well as the 1996 Academy Awards. But he later admitted in a court deposition that he had never crashed the Oscars ceremony.
Sullivan told the judge that Kerman was telling the truth in his statement to the court, and that the book was fiction. She added that he had already promised not to be in Los Angeles on awards night.
The academy, she said, took Kerman to court for publicity.
But academy attorney Christopher Tayback said it only sought a court order after Kerman refused to say what his plans might be for this year's awards.
The safety of its members is no laughing matter to the academy, which says it fears becoming a target for terrorists and stalkers.
The academy said in court papers that it spends about $300,000 each year to provide security on the night of the awards--hiring 90 plainclothes officers and hundreds of security guards, as well as conducting bomb sweeps.
The academy should lighten up when it comes to her client, Sullivan said.
"Mr. Kerman is not an international terrorist," she said. "He's not a stalker. He's a joker. I think this proceeding by the academy is a joke."
Sullivan told the judge that the restraining order violated Kerman's right of free speech.
"What we're talking about here is the academy not liking what Mr. Kerman says, not thinking it's funny," Sullivan said. "The whole thing's a joke--as is this proceeding. You cannot grant a temporary restraining order on jokes."
Kerman, meanwhile, is suing the academy in Los Angeles Superior Court on accusations of harassment and false arrest. He says that security guards followed him for three days before last year's ceremony.
He contends that he was taken into custody at the Shrine Auditorium the night before the Academy Awards and was held overnight for disorderly conduct, even though he was wearing a tuxedo and carrying a press pass issued by the academy.
Kerman alleges in his lawsuit that after he was detained for three hours, the academy "paraded" him in front of television cameras as an example. The charge later was dropped.
He since has moved to a suburb outside Washington.
"After I was arrested, nobody would hire me," said Kerman, a stand-up comedian, during a recent interview.
"You know the saying, 'I couldn't get arrested in this town'? Well, I got arrested and couldn't get a job."