LOS ANGELES - Talking trash about the Kardashians is a common pastime for many ordinary Americans. On Monday, a few got to do it to their faces.
On Tuesday, a jury was seated in trial of a defamation lawsuit filed by Blac Chyna against Kim and Khloe Kardashian and Kris and Kylie Jenner. Opening statements were scheduled to begin shortly after 11 a.m.
Kim Kardashian, her mother Kris Jenner and her sisters Khloe Kardashian and Kylie Jenner all sat in the front row of a Los Angeles courtroom as prospective jurors aired their feelings about the famous family and the four women, all defendants in a lawsuit brought by Rob Kardashian’s former fiancée Blac Chyna.
"Anything that has to do with their names is just a big no for me," one man said. "I don’t think reality TV is good for society."
Chyna, whose legal name is Angela White, is suing the Kardashians, alleging they destroyed her television career, and during jury selection her attorney Lynne Ciani asked dozens of candidates their feelings about the plaintiff and defendants, and the reality shows the case stems from.
Another said, "I sincerely hope none of these people get any wealthier because of this."
One woman said her teenage daughter tried to watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" when it first came on, but she put a stop to it.
"I don’t think they were the best role models," she said. "I wouldn’t let her watch anything involving them."
One panel member couldn’t even wait to be asked. Told to give his name, occupation, marital status and hometown shortly after sitting down, he answered then added, "and I just want to say I have a very negative perception of the parties and I’m not sure I could be unbiased."
The defendants didn’t seem defensive about the disrespect. They chatted with each other and smiled during breaks.
Judge Gregory W. Alarcon wasn’t entirely pleased by the tone, however.
"I appreciate your honesty. You’re certainly not shy," he told the panel. "But this is the type of case like all cases where everybody is entitled to a fair trial. There’s a jury instruction that says the wealth of a party or the poverty of the party doesn’t matter."
Jury selection is expected to continue Tuesday, with opening statements to follow. The Kardashian women are all expected to testify during the trial, and had been expected to attend at least parts of it, but their appearance for jury selection was something of a surprise.
Wearing loose-fitting business suits, the mother in white, her daughters in blacks and grays, they were ushered in by security at the last moment before the jury panel was brought in.
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One prospective juror, who has served on other cases, said he didn’t like the pampered treatment he felt the defendants were getting.
Michael G. Rhodes, the Kardashians’ attorney, explained that courthouse security drove them in and escorted them into the courtroom for a reason.
"Do you understand that there is a dark side to celebrity," Rhodes said, "and that people that are famous sometimes need extra security?"
"Does that mean that they need Fiji water hand-delivered to them as they sit in court?" the man responded.
The family did have supporters in the room too.
"I am a pretty big fan of the Kardashians so I don’t think I would be able to make an unbiased judgment," one young woman said.
"I also am a big fan of the Kardashians," a young man said. "I’ve been watching it since I was little, so I don’t think I could be very fair."
The Kardashian fans said they knew who Blac Chyna was, but hadn’t developed strong feelings about her.
One woman who said she didn’t care for the Kardashians said she liked Chyna because the two went to the same nail salon and she was "always nice to me."
Chyna, a model and influencer, began dating the lone Kardashian brother, Rob, in January 2016, and by the time the year was over they were engaged, had a daughter together and were starring in their own "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" spinoff called "Rob & Chyna," on the E! network.
A second season was being shot when the two broke up, and the show was scrapped.
In 2017, Chyna sued the family for $100 million, saying they had defamed her and illegally interfered with her contracts and business dealings, using their power with producers and executives to drive her out of reality television.
The Kardashians denied any wrongdoing and said in court filings that they had legitimate concerns about Chyna and fears for the safety of their son and brother given the "violence and toxicity" of the relationship.
Chyna is also suing Rob Kardashian, but the differences in her allegations against him prompted the judge to sever that part of the case into a separate trial that will follow this one.
The family gained fame through 20 seasons of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians," which ran from 2007 to 2021 on E! and made them social media superstars and prized product pitchers.
A sequel series on Hulu, "The Kardashians," premiered Thursday.
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