MARK CURRIDEN AND LEROY PHILLIPS, JR.’S
AWARD-WINNING BOOK “CONTEMPT OF COURT:
THE TURN-OF-THE-CENTURY LYNCHING
THAT LAUNCHED A HUNDRED YEARS OF FEDERALISM”
ACQUIRED BY FIXED POINT FILMS IN A LOW SIX-FIGURE DEAL
“Contempt of Court” Is the True Story of a 1906 Lynching and How Two African-American Lawyers Brought the Case before the U.S. Supreme Court
Also: Charlie Stratton on Board to Direct Fixed Point Films’ “Hope’s Wish”
“Contempt of Court”: The Turn-Of-The-Century Lynching That Launched A Hundred Years Of Federalism,” by Mark Curriden and Leroy Phillips, Jr. and published by Faber & Faber, has been acquired by Jonah M. Hirsch’s Fixed Point Films in a low six-figure deal, announced Hirsch. Hirsch will produce “Contempt of Court” under his shingle, Fixed Point Films, along with Executive Producer Stuart Stout’s MFWH Productions.
The highly regarded book was awarded the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award and was twice listed in the Wall Street Journal’s “Five Best” column. In the Wall Street Journal, Catherine Crier named “Contempt of Court” the second best book on crime, only behind “The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe” and she praised the intimate research and the portraits of the players, which she said, rival Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”
“God bless you all. I am innocent.” These were the last words of Ed Johnson, an uneducated Black man brutally lynched by a mob for the alleged crime of raping a young white woman in 1906, Chattanooga, Tennessee. Though he did not live to see it, Johnson’s case would spark a battle, not only between his defense lawyers and the lynch mob, but the federal and state courts.
The United States v. Shipp would become the seed of federalism, beginning the federal court’s power to protect individuals’ rights from wayward state authorities. Despite his powerless perception, an African-American lawyer would heroically spearhead the case and change the U.S. legal system forever.
“The lead lawyers are inspiring people who are role models for what it means to be a lawyer. They were courageous in the face of threats to their lives, upholding their oath to the rule of law and their client. The story represents the only time in history when the US Supreme Court held a criminal trial.
It is the first federal habeas corpus case. “Contempt of Court” should be studied in every law school,” said Linda Klein, president-elect of the American Bar Association and partner at Baker Donelson in Atlanta.
“Contempt of Court” is based on the U.S. Supreme Court case, The United States v. Shipp, which changed the balance of power between the states and the federal government. The book was the catalyst for overturning the 94-year old rape conviction of Johnson, which made national news in 2000.
Ed Johnson’s life and tragic end helped shape our country more than people may realize. The dramatic events show how a few ardent individuals can change the course of history.
“The Ed Johnson lynching and ensuing Supreme Court trial represents one of the most heartbreaking, yet also heroic stories of how race and law are deeply intertwined in American History. This story of how justice is carried out in America is as relevant today as it was over a 100 years ago,” said Hirsch.
Stout and Hirsch’s other project in development, “Hope’s Wish,” was penned by Oscar-winning screenwriter Diana Ossana (“Brokeback Mountain”), as previously announced. “Hope’s Wish” is the remarkable true story of Hope Stout, a 12 year old girl whose one simple wish forever changed the lives of 155 other children and everyone else around her. Charlie Stratton has just signed to direct “Hope’s Wish,” Hirsch announced today. Stratton is represented by Todd Feldman at CAA, Judi Farkas Management, and Diane Golden, Attorney, at Katz, Golden & Rosenman.