In our last post, we gave a bit of history on the Anna Nicole Smith probate debacle that has been playing out over the last 15 years. The Supreme Court current faces an important decision that will influence how the rest of the legal battle will play out.
It is up to the Supreme Court to decide whether Smith’s estate received a proper hearing in federal court, and whether or not a state’s probate court is the proper venue for hearing of this nature. There is a “probate exception” commonly adhered to that prevents federal courts from ruling on disputes of this nature, but there isn’t a congressional law that dictates this, technically speaking. The Supreme Court will expectedly refrain from ruling on more detailed matters in the case such as document tampering, whether Smith was kept away from her husband in his final hours, and exactly how the estate should be divided.
This case already has a lengthy legal history. Smith had been awarded nearly $500 million by a U.S. bankruptcy judge, which was eventually lowered to roughly $90 million. The case was later dismissed not once in federal appeals court, but twice. State probate court ruled Marshall’s son was the sole heir to the full estate.
The situation becomes even more complex when you consider the person fighting on behalf of Smith’s estate is her former boyfriend and attorney Howard K. Stern, who is himself on trial in L.A. along with two doctors for allegedly conspiring against Smith by taking an active part in perpetuating her drug addiction and for obtaining drugs for her under false identities. Stern and the doctors deny the allegations. That case may go to a jury as early as next week.
Source: CNN.com “Justices to again review probate dispute by Anna Nicole Smith’s estate” 9/28/10