5.01.2006

Anna Nicole Wins Supreme Court Case


From the LA Times:


The Supreme Court, reversing the federal appeals court in San Francisco, today unanimously revived the claim of 1993 "Playmate of the Year" Anna Nicole Smith for nearly $500 million of her late husband's estate.

The 38-year-old former stripper, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Marshall, was 26 in 1994 when she married Texas oilman J. Howard Marshall II. He died a year later at age 89, leaving an estate estimated at $1.6 billion.

Marshall's will became the focal point of a dispute over whether a state or a federal court should have jurisdiction over a dispute between Smith and Marshall's 67-year-old son, E. Pierce Marshall.

At one point, Howard Marshall's will had named his son his sole heir. But after the marriage, the oilman had his attorneys prepare a new will establishing a trust for his new wife that would leave her a substantial share of his assets.

Smith filed for bankruptcy protection in California in 1996. Ordinarily, a federal Bankruptcy Court can claim exclusive control over the financial matters of a petitioner, and a bankruptcy judge in Orange County said Smith was entitled to $474 million under the terms of her late husband's will.

But a state court in Texas issued a ruling in favor of Pierce Marshall. So he appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the Supreme Court had held that state courts had jurisdiction over challenges to wills. The appeals court agreed, voiding the federal Bankruptcy Court ruling and leaving the Texas state court in charge.

Smith contended to the U.S. Supreme Court that Pierce Marshall had tried to prevent her from getting the money even before his father's death by "effectively imprisoning J. Howard against his wishes; surrounding him with hired guards for the purpose of preventing personal contact between him and [Smith] and transferring property against J. Howard's expressed wishes," the high court said.

The Supreme Court held that the appeals court "had no warrant from Congress, or from decisions of this court," to strip the federal courts of jurisdiction over Smith's claim. There is nothing either in the Constitution or in law that gives state courts jurisdiction over wills, the high court said.

The U.S. practice, it said in a decision written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, sprang from "misty understandings of English history."

She favorably referred to an analysis of probate law that, citing Charles Dickens' novel "Bleak House," found that claims that British ecclesiastical rather than civil courts had jurisdiction over estates to be "preposterous."


Ugh. Stupid golddigger.

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