Anna Nicole Smith

Legal Issues and Court Cases involving Anna Nicole Smith

Anna Nicole Smith, born Vickie Lynn Hogan, on November 28, 1967 in Houston, Texas, was party to several high profile legal cases in life and in death.

Anna Nicole Smith's Inheritance from husband J. Howard Marshall

Within weeks of husband J. Howard Marshall's death, Anna Nicole Smith and her husband's son, E. Pierce Marshall, battled over her claim for half of her late husband's US$1.6 billion estate. She temporarily joined forces with J. Howard's other son, James Howard Marshall III, whom the elder Howard had disowned. Howard III claimed J. Howard orally promised him a portion of his estate; like Smith, Howard III was also left out of J. Howard's will.[19] The case has gone on for more than a decade, producing a highly publicized court battle in Texas and several judicial decisions that have gone both for and against Smith in that time.

Anna Nicole Smith filed for bankruptcy in California in 1996 as a result of a $850,000 judgment against her for sexual harassment of an employee. As any money potentially due to her from the Marshall estate was part of her potential assets, the bankruptcy court involved itself in the matter.

Anna Nicole Smith claimed J. Howard orally promised her half of his estate if she married him. In September 2000, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded her $449,754,134. In July 2001, Houston judge Mike Wood affirmed the jury findings in the probate case by ruling that Smith was entitled to nothing and ordered Smith to pay over $1 million in fees and expenses to Pierce's legal team. The conflict between the Texas probate court and California bankruptcy court judgments forced the matter into federal court.

In March 2002, a federal judge vacated the California bankruptcy court's ruling and issued a new ruling but reduced the award to $88 million. In December 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2002 decision, affirming the Texas Probate jury findings that no misconduct had occurred, Smith was not one of J. Howard Marshall's heirs and that the federal courts lacked jurisdiction to overrule the probate decisions of a Texas state court.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided in September 2005 to hear the appeal of that decision. The Bush administration subsequently directed the Solicitor General to intercede on Smith's behalf out of an interest to expand federal court jurisdiction over state probate disputes.[24] After months of waiting, Smith and her stepson Pierce learned of the Supreme Court's decision on May 1, 2006. The justices unanimously decided in favor of Smith; Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion (see Marshall v. Marshall). The decision did not give Smith a portion of her husband's estate, but affirmed her right to pursue a share of it in federal court.[25] On June 20, 2006, E. Pierce Marshall died at age 67 from an "aggressive infection". His widow, Elaine T. Marshall, now represents his estate.[26] The case has been remanded to the 9th Circuit to adjudicate the remaining appellate issues not previously resolved.

After Anna’s death the New York Times reported that the case over the Marshall fortune “is likely to continue in the name of Ms. Smith’s infant daughter.”[27]

Paternity of daughter Dannielynn

A California judge on February 9, 2007 ordered that Smith's body be preserved until February 20, 2007 so that a hearing in the paternity dispute over her 5-month-old daughter can be held. If Smith left no will and was not legally married to Stern, then her child will most likely receive her assets.[77] In a Florida court to decide Anna’s final resting place, the matter of paternity was also to be settled. Larry Birkhead petitoned the court to ask Howard K. Stern to submit to a DNA test on Feb. 20, 2007 but at the time Stern stated he was not willing to do so in a closed conference with Judge Larry Seidlin. The judge has put off the paternity question until after the issue of the location of Anna’s burial is decided. [78]

At the request of Anna Nicole Smith's mother, Virgie Arthur, a Bahamian judge issued a temporary injunction on February 13, 2007, preventing Howard K. Stern from taking Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn out of the Bahamas.[79] The paternity claim of G. Ben Thompson (the real estate developer that got into a dispute over the mansion she lived at in the Bahamas) was never filed in court and because medical records indicate he had had a vasectomy he is no longer considered a possible father.

Paternity cases over Dannielynn are pending in courts in Los Angeles, the Bahamas, and Florida. A hearing over a request for DNA testing was held on February 22, 2007 in Broward County, FL.

Anna Nicole Smith's Final resting place

There is also a court case involving over 20 different lawyers representing four different parties, over the body of Anna Nicole Smith.[81] Anna’s mother, Virgie Arthur, wants the body to be buried near her family in Texas. Larry Birkhead (a paternity claimant of Snith's daughter) held that she “should be buried with her son, but that neither should be in the Bahamas.” He (along with the other parties in the case) said that Smith told him several times that she “wanted to be buried in California near her idol, Marilyn Monroe.” Smith's longtime companion and lawyer Howard K. Stern wants her to be buried in the Bahamas next to her son Daniel. Richard Milstein, guardian ad litem to Smith's daughter Dannielynn, wants the court to settle the paternity case first and then have Dannielynn’s biological father decide where Anna should be buried.[78][82][83] On February 20, 2007 the court heard from Florida county medical examiner Joshua Perper that her body’s rate of decomposition is faster than expected. Perper advised that any viewing of the body be done locally to preserve “the optimal condition”, as “The face of the deceased might show color change.”[78] Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin, who had anticipated a few weeks of argument on the case, determined to speed things up, declaring “The court is going to enter a decision by the end of the week, let the chips fall where they may.”[78] Lawyers and family members began working immediately to arrange a viewing, either at the medical examiner's office or a local funeral parlor.

On February 22, 2007 Broward County Circuit Judge Larry Seidlin ruled that the final resting place of Anna Nicole Smith's remains would be dictated solely by attorney Richard Milstein, the guardian ad litem for Smith's infant daughter Danielynn.[84][85] In a tearful decision the judge also indicated his own preference saying “I want her buried with her son in the Bahamas, I want them to be together.”[81] In less than an hour after the 4pm decision Millstein had worked out the details of her burial with the other parties. It has been agreed that she will be buried next to her son in the Bahamas. It will be a private funeral with friends and relatives. All the parties to the court case will attend.[81] Her mother Virgie Arthur is still appealing the decision, the judge told her previously that it was beyond the power of his court to order Daniel’s body exhumed in the Bahamas for reburial in Texas. In addition to his ruling, Judge Seidlin also implored the parties of the paternity question to agree to DNA tests, but repeated that he would not force any test.

Bahama mansion

A dispute has arisen regarding the ownership of the mansion in the Bahamas where she last resided which has caused the locks of the estate to be changed a number of times.[86] Ford Shelley, the son-in-law of Smith's former boyfriend entered the mansion following her death and removed certain articles, including laptops, video tapes and other possessions, which Howard K. Stern later claimed were stolen. Shelley surrendered the items to the Horry County sheriff's office, which transferred them to the Seminole Police Department, who are responsible for investigating Anna Nicole Smith's death.[87]


According to Smith's will, which was released to the media on February 16 by a Florida Court, she left everything to her son Daniel, who died in September 2006. She named Howard K. Stern as the executor. The document is dated July 30, 2001, and was not updated after then.[88] The lawyer for Smith's estranged mother, Virgie Arthur, said the will was not filed in any court, so it is not valid.[89]

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