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Legal wrangling over who owns a dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” is heating up after a federal judge on Monday ordered a May 23 hearing on why he should not block the May 24 auction of the dress, pending the outcome of a lawsuit over who owns the famous blue gingham dress.
An auction house is currently scheduled to sell the dress on behalf of The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The blue-and-white gingham dress is one of just two of what are believed to have been six dresses made for Garland to wear in the classic “Oz” film. The auction house has estimated the dress could sell for $800,000 to $1.2 million, according to CNBC.
Wisconsin resident Barbara Hartke has asked the federal judge to stop the sale after claiming in her original lawsuit that the dress is the legal property of the estate of her late uncle, the Rev. Gilbert Hartke, who founded Catholic University’s drama school. She claims she is the one to inherit the dress — not the university — after the Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge in 1973 gifted the dress to her uncle, of which she is an heir, according to the news report.
Yet the university said that Gilbert Hartke’s vow of poverty as a Roman Catholic priest barred him from accepting gifts as his personal property. “Fr. Hartke’s estate does not have a property interest in it,” the school said in a May 6 statement.