Mother-in-Law Jokes Lawsuit Flops

Sunda Croonquist will be at the Laugh Factory-Hollywood on Saturday night. Take the in-laws, please

PHI Sunda Croonquist Mother In Law suit

Sunda Croonquist's shtick has been to describe her life as a half-black, half-Swedish woman who marries into a Jewish family. As part of her standup show, she makes a few jokes about her in-laws.

They weren't laughing.

Croonquist, of Beverly Hills, was sued two years ago after her mother-in-law, sister-in-law and brother-in-law said her jokes were holding them up to public ridicule.

But now Croonquist is having the last laugh.

In a 21-page ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge Mary L. Cooper of New Jersey concluded that the examples the family members cited -- including one in which Croonquist compares her sister's voice to the sound of a cat in heat -- fell under the category of protected speech.

Many of the jokes, Cooper said, were clearly statements of opinion and not fact and therefore protected by the First Amendment. The cat-in-heat joke, the judge said, quoting from a previous court decision, was "colorful, figurative rhetoric that reasonable minds would not take to be factual."

The suit was filed in New Jersey because two of the plaintiffs, Croonquist's brother-in-law and sister-in-law, Neil and Shelley Edelman, live there. Croonquist lives in Beverly Hills and her mother-in-law, Ruth Zafrin, lives in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

But don't think Croonquist's entire family is against her. Her husband, Mark Zafrin, is a partner in the law firm that successfully represented her.

"He's excited that I won, but he's not happy about the legal fees that his firm had to incur," Croonquist said.

Want to see what all the fuss was about? Croonquist is at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood on Saturday night.

"In honor of Henny Youngman, why would I stop?" she asked, citing the legendary comedian whose signature line was "Take my wife -- please."

Neither Zafrin nor her attorney, Lawrence Wertheim of Old Bridge, N.J., responded to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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