‘Mockingbird’ author’s settlement with museum off

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 6:21 p.m.
    UPDATED: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 6:22 p.m.

MONROEVILLE, Ala. — A lawsuit settlement between “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee and a museum in her Alabama hometown has failed.

Attorneys for Lee filed court papers Monday seeking reinstatement of a suit she filed against the Monroe County Heritage Museum in Monroeville.

Lee’s attorneys told the court in February that a settlement had been reached over the museum’s use of Lee’s name and book title on souvenirs it sells. Her attorneys notified the court Monday that the museum won’t proceed with the settlement without additional terms not previously agreed to by the parties. The attorneys said the author “has no choice but to reinstate the case given the time constraints involved.”

U.S. District Judge William Steele issued an order Tuesday saying he needs to know whether a settlement agreement was signed. If it was, the judge said Lee must pursue a separate action to enforce it.

One of Lee’s attorneys, Bob Clarida of New York, declined to comment Tuesday.

The museum’s attorney did not immediately respond to a phone call and email seeking comment.

Lee, 88, lives in Monroeville. Her lone published book, released in 1960, tells the story of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, his two children and the struggle against racial prejudice in the segregated South. The movie of the book recreated the Monroe County Courthouse for the climatic trial scene, and now the museum is located in the courthouse.

Lee filed suit in 2013, accusing the museum of taking advantage of her work by selling souvenirs and using the title of the book as its website address without any compensation. By the time the settlement notice was filed in February, the museum had changed its website to www.monroecountymuseum.org and noted the items it had for sale were only available in Monroeville. The website continues to say the museum’s gift shop offers “a great selection of books and memorabilia about Harper Lee and Truman Capote,” a childhood friend of Lee who also spent time in Monroeville and wrote “In Cold Blood.”

When the settlement notice was filed in February, the judge gave the two sides 60 days to draft the settlement documents. He later extended that another 30 days at the request of both sides, which put the deadline this month.

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