LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Los Angeles federal judge today ordered a Beverly Hills auction house to pull Valerie Harper's Emmy statuettes from sale after the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences argued that the trophies are its property and are only loaned to winners.
Harper's four Emmy Awards from her role as Rhoda Morgenstern on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show'' and “Rhoda'' were valued at $5,000 to $7,000 each on Julien's Auctions' website and were set to go on the block Friday and Saturday, but the academy filed an application for a temporary restraining order arguing that if the sale was allowed it will undermine the prestige of the award.
U.S. District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall granted the request that Julien's be ordered to temporarily remove Harper's statuettes from sale. The judge scheduled a July 30 hearing on the matter.
Harper died in August at the age of 80.
A message left Thursday night to Darren Julien, president and chief executive officer of the auction house, was not immediately answered.
On Wednesday, Julien said the Television Academy's lawsuit was “meritless'' and the auction house would oppose it in court.
“Julien's Auctions, and many other auction houses, have sold dozens of Emmy statuettes at auction without incident for decades,'' he said.
“It appears that the Television Academy is now attempting to enforce new rules retroactively. Those rules are totally at odds with their own earlier policies and practices.''
Julien said the Harper estate “were not told of and did not agree to any ownership restrictions that the Television Academy is now trying to impose. Julien's has always honored valid obligations and restrictions. These are neither.''
According to the complaint, the academy repeatedly asked that Julien's withdraw the Harper Emmys from the sale, but the auction house refused.
John Leverence, who was the top-ranking staff member at the academy's awards department until he retired at the end of last year, wrote in case documents that the academy “permits all artists so honored to retain possession of an Emmy statuette copy for life, and permits the artists' heirs and successors in interest to retain custody of the copies to symbolize the achievements of the deceased honorees.''
He further declared that the Television Academy has a policy dating back to at least 1971 -- communicated to Emmy recipients -- that the Emmy statuette cannot be used for any commercial purpose without the academy's permission, “and neither the recipient nor his or her successors can sell or transfer the statuette.''
The suit includes copyright infringement among its allegations, asks for a court order returning Harper's statuettes to the academy and seeks a jury trial for unspecified damages.
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