A judge stops the sale of a "Wizard of Oz" dress because of a fight over who owns it.
A fight is going on between Catholic University and the family of its former drama chair over a blue-and-white dress that Judy Garland wore.
A federal judge stopped Catholic University from auctioning off a famous white-and-blue dress worn by Judy Garland in "The Wizard of Oz" on Monday. This was because a woman from Wisconsin filed a lawsuit claiming that she was the rightful owner of Dorothy's gingham pinafore.
A preliminary injunction was issued by Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the U.S. District Court in Manhattan a day before the dress was to be auctioned in Los Angeles, where it was expected to sell for more than $1 million. Catholic University had planned to use that money to fund a new faculty position at the Rome School of Music, Drama, and Art.
Judge Gardephe said that Catholic University couldn't sell the dress until the case was over. On June 9, both sides will go to court.
In her lawsuit, which was filed earlier this month, Barbara Ann Hartke says that the dress belonged to the estate of her uncle, the Rev. Gilbert Hartke, who was once the head of the university's drama department and got the dress as a gift in 1973 from the Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge, who was also an artist in residence at the university.
The lawsuit says that Ms. McCambridge "specifically and publicly" gave Mr. Hartke the dress as a thank-you for "helping her fight alcohol and drug abuse."
Mr. Hartke died in 1986, and Ms. Hartke says that she is his closest living heir.
According to the lawsuit, Ms. McCambridge was a "close friend" of Ms. Garland, but it's not clear how she got the dress.
The university has said that Mr. Hartke gave the dress to the school as a gift and that it was his wish that it stay there.
In a statement released Monday night, Shawn Brenhouse, an attorney for Catholic University, said that the judge's decision "was preliminary and did not get to the merits of Barbara Hartke's claim to the dress."
Mr. Brenhouse said, "We're looking forward to telling the court about our side of the story and the huge amount of evidence that proves Ms. Hartke's claim is false."
Anthony Scordo III, Ms. Hartke's lawyer, did not respond right away to an email I sent him on Monday night asking for his thoughts.
Since Judy Garland wore it in the Technicolor classic from 1939, when the Wicked Witch wanted ruby-red slippers to go with her plaid outfit, the dress has become a legend. Ms. Garland wore different versions of the dress, but only one is still around. In 2012, Julien's Auctions sold it for $480,000. It was sold again in 2015 for almost $1.6 million.
The second dress's location was unknown until last year, when it was found by accident in a shoe box inside a bag on top of the faculty mailboxes. Matt Ripa, who works at the drama school as a lecturer and operations manager, found the bag when he was cleaning up the area before the Hartke Theater was fixed up.
The National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian helped verify the dress. It has a fitted bodice, a high-necked blouse, and a full skirt. On the inside of the dress, there is a label that says "Judy Garland 4223."
In her lawsuit, Ms. Hartke says that the university never told her family about the discovery. They knew there was a dress, so they were shocked to read in the news that it was going to be sold at auction "without paying its rightful owners," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit says, "There is no proof that Mr. Hartke ever gave the dress to Catholic University because there is no proof that he did."