BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) _ An outline of a speech given by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was auctioned Saturday for $38,500. But ownership of the rare document was called into question by a lawsuit filed the day before.

The notes, handwritten by King, were used by him to deliver a speech during a Southern Christian Leadership Conference staff retreat on Nov. 6, 1966. Experts said the documents are rare because nearly all of King's speeches and sermons were delivered extemporaneously.

The outline was expected to sell for $25,000, said Brian Rackohn, general manager of Superior Galleries. Winning bidder was Sara Wellen, a Beverly Hills art gallery owner bidding on behalf of a New Jersey group, Kaller Historical Documents, he said.

But the papers will go nowhere until resolution of a lawsuit filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by the King estate. The lawsuit claims the document was stolen and seeks its return, along with $5 million in punitive damages from the auction house.

Michele Clark Jenkins, an attorney for the King estate, said the outline should be on display at Atlanta's Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. More than 120,000 King documents are already on display there.

Rackohn said the auction house hadn't been served with the lawsuit. But he said it would cooperate fully to settle the dispute.

''We're still holding the piece in our vault. The sale is not concluded. Everything is subject to resolving this issue,'' he said.

Rackohn said Superior Galleries received the outline on consignment from another dealer, who bought it from another firm. That firm had obtained the document from a woman who said in a sworn affidavit that she found the document in the trash 24 years ago, Rackohn said.

The outline, on six pages torn from a steno pad, formed the basis for a speech entitled ''The Roots of Racism are Very Deep in America.'' The speech summarized gains made in the civil rights movement and spelled out King's views on nonviolence and black power.