'Sisters In Law' Adaptation Rights Dispute Sparks Lawsuit

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Former Associate Justice Sandra Day O' Connor-Getty- H 2020
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

A book about the first two women to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court has sparked a legal battle between an author and an entertainment attorney who she says is interfering with her right to option her work.

Linda Hirshman on Tuesday sued Don Franzen for allegedly interfering in her efforts to sell TV and film adaptation rights to Sisters In Law, her 2015 book about the careers of justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor. 

According to Hirshman's complaint, which was filed in New York federal court, she in 2017 granted limited stage rights so a play could be adapted from her book in exchange for $1,000 and a share of royalties.

In 2018, the author says she entered into negotiations with Alyssa Milano's company Peace by Peace productions for an option agreement that included motion picture, television, merchandising and ancillary rights. (Milano and her companies are not parties to the suit.)

Since then, Hirshman says, Franzen has been trying to "induce an evil opinion of her" and stop her from selling the rights. 

"The unlawful means Defendant has employed include, threats, harassment, intimidation, a campaign of disparaging and spurious letters, and by wrongfully commencing legal proceedings to, among other things, inflict harm on Hirshman and her business relationships," states the complaint. 

Franzen, according to the complaint, first sent a cease and desist letter to Milano's husband (CAA agent Dave Bugliari) in May 2018 that demanded they issue a statement "retracting the claim you are developing a limited series" and threatened legal action for defamation, trade libel and tortious interference.

Hirshman entered into a modified agreement in January 2019 with Milano's AJM Productions that expressly excluded limited stage rights. Franzen sent emails in June 2020 to Hirshman and Milano threatening arbitration if they didn't hand over evidence that a reported limited series wasn't actually in the works. He initiated arbitration proceedings in mid-July, according to the complaint, which is posted below. 

She's suing for tortious interference with business relations and is seeking at least $100,000 in damages.

Franzen has not yet responded to a request for comment on the complaint.