Judges block the Catholic University’s ‘Witch of Oz’ dress auction

A blue and white plaid gingham dress, worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz,” goes on display, Monday, April 25, 2022, at Bonhams in New York.

Katie Vasquez | AP

A federal judge in New York blocked Tuesday’s scheduled auction of a dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” is expected to raise $1 million or more for Catholic University of America.

Second Ban on the sale of the dress Auction house Bonhams in Los Angeles comes more than two weeks after a Wisconsin woman, Barbara Hartke, sued to stop the sale, claiming it belonged to the property of her late uncle, Father Gilbert Hartke. The lawsuit will be filed in Manhattan federal court.

Judge Paul Gardephe ordered Catholic University, located in Washington, DC, and Bonhams not to sell the dress until the lawsuit is resolved.

Anthony Scordo, an attorney for Barbara Hartke, in an email to CNBC said, “I am pleased with the ruling blocking the sale. I feel the judge carefully considered the submissions of all parties and to a fair outcome.”

In its statement, the Catholic University said, “The Court’s decision to uphold the status quo is preliminary and inconsistent with Barbara Hartke’s request for the dress. this litigation.”

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Hartke received the “Oz” dress in 1973 as a gift from Oscar-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge while serving as dean of the Catholic University drama school he founded. It’s not known how MacCambridge got the costume from the 1939 classic.

As the priest’s heiress, Barbara Hartke stands to inherit part of the ownership of the dress if she wins the lawsuit to prove that it belongs to her late uncle’s property.

The dress went missing for decades before it was found in a trash bag in a room at the drama school last year. The Catholic University then turned it over for auction, generating extensive media coverage last month.

The university argued that it was the rightful owner of the dress, as Hartke, as a Roman Catholic priest, took an oath of poverty and the dress was intended to benefit the school. .

The school also filed an affidavit from a nephew of Hartke’s, who remembers that “my grandfather Father Gilbert Hartke told me I couldn’t have it because the dress belonged to the Catholic University.”

The man, Thomas Kuipers, and a cousin said that they and other descendants of the priest supported the auction of the dress, understanding it was given as a gift to the school.

In its statement, the Catholic University said that “it remains committed to its plan to use the proceeds from the sale of the dress to award a faculty position in the School of Music, Drama and Arts.” Rome, which it believes aligns with Mercedes. McCambridge’s original intentions and Father Gilbert Hartke’s desire to support and develop the University’s drama program.”

This dress is one of only two that is believed to still exist among those created for Garland to wear in “The Wizard of Oz.”

That dress is was auctioned in 2015 by Bonhams for over $1.5 million.

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