Anna Nicole goes demure for court

first_imgWASHINGTON – Let it be said that at no time during Tuesday’s U.S. Supreme Court hearing did Anna Nicole Smith run her finger across her chest and, a la her performance at the American Music Awards, ask the nation’s finest legal minds, “Do you like my body?” Neither did the former Playboy Playmate pout, slur or fall asleep. In fact, Smith pulled none of the antics for which she has become notorious as attorneys battled over her right to seek a share of her late husband’s fortune. Instead, Smith dressed in dignified black with sleek black heels, oversize shades and a diamond cross around her neck. She said nothing as she entered the court and little as she left, save for a murmured “Sorry” through pink-frosted lipstick as a reporter tried to ask questions. “I think we had a pretty emotional day,” Smith’s lawyer, Howard K. Stern told the Daily News, putting the kibosh on any suggestion that Smith pause for the cameras. “You’re at the Supreme Court. If you want to see Anna Nicole Smith, I don’t know, watch a porn movie.” The justices, it should be noted, did not gawk at Smith. In fact, they seemed to actually be immersed in the intricacies of Texas probate law in an effort to determine when federal courts may hear claims that involve state probate proceedings. Only Justice Stephen Breyer allowed there might be something juicier to the case. Like, say, the brief marriage of a 26-year-old exotic dancer to an 89-year-old Texas oil tycoon who, upon dying, set off a bitter, decadelong struggle over the estate between widow and unhappy heir. “It’s quite a story,” Breyer said. Smith and J. Howard Marshall III married in 1994. They met three years earlier while Smith was working as a topless dancer in Houston. Marshall had assets estimated at more than $1.6 billion, and his son, E. Pierce Marshall, claims to be the sole heir to the estate. Texas probate courts have ruled in favor of the son, while a federal bankruptcy judge in California ruled in favor of Smith, awarding her $474 million because of claims the younger Marshall “tortiously interfered” with her inheritance with fraud and document-tampering. But another federal judge cut Smith’s award to $88 million. Then an appeals court ruled that Smith was entitled to nothing because federal courts lack jurisdiction in probate disputes. Smith’s lawyer, backed by the Bush administration, argued Tuesday that federal courts do have jurisdiction to consider her claims. The justices, for their part, appeared sympathetic to Smith’s position when G. Eric Brunstad Jr., the lawyer for the son, argued that Smith has no grounds to bring a separate claim in federal court. “That’s just not the way our system works,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg told Brunstad. “I don’t see your logic,” added Justice David Souter. Breyer noted that J. Howard Marshall’s will was forged, that three pages of his living trust document had been altered after his death, and that the son hired private detectives to keep Smith away from her elderly husband’s death bed. “J. Howard Marshall wanted to give her money and was prevented in about 15 ways,” Breyer said. At that, Smith, sitting in the back of the courtroom, wiped her eyes. Souter then summed up Smith’s case. “I just want some money from this guy. That’s all she’s saying,” Souter said. Still, even if the Supreme Court does overturn the appeals court, Smith might not get the money. In a statement after the argument, Pierce Marshall said “a decision to return the case to the lower courts still leaves us with numerous other grounds.” “If necessary, each of those remaining grounds will be pursued vigorously,” he said. Lisa Friedman, (202) 662-8731 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant “We just don’t think it’s respectful to the court,” Stern said, shepherding the stripper-turned-reality-TV star to a black SUV where a phalanx of paparazzi descended upon the duo. One camera-wielder even tried to climb into the car as Stern opened the door. For a dry probate issue, the case has drawn extraordinary nationwide interest more for the glitzy and controversial high-profile player involved than for any intricacies of the issue itself. “Wow,” said bystander and D.C. attorney Andrew Adair, who attended Tuesday’s arguments because, he insisted, a friend helped write one of the legal briefs. It certainly wasn’t because he thought he might catch a glimpse of Smith. Really. In fact, Adair said, he felt all the neck-craning inside the chamber among attorneys and tourists was unseemly. last_img

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