How The US Supreme Court Is Resurrecting The Spirit Of Anna Nicole Smith Yet Again

Anna Nicole SmithAP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaAnna Nicole Smith in 2006

The spirit of
Anna Nicole Smithwas recently invoked in an
opera bearing her name, and it turns out the deceased former Playboy Playmate
may also live on inthe U.S. Supreme Court.

America’s highest court is hearing a complex bankruptcy case that will examine unresolved issues from a 2011 Supreme Court dispute involving Smith’s estate, as Erwin Chemerinsky points out in the National Law Journal.

The 2011 case was Stern v. Marshall, in which the Supreme Court ruled Smith’s heirs didn’t get $US400 million that a bankruptcy judge awarded the former playmate in a bitter dispute with her stepson Pierce Marshall. (Neither lived to see the outcome of the case, as the wheels of justice can turn slowly.)

Smith became notorious for marrying billionaire Howard Marshall, six decades her senior. She filed for bankruptcy after he died and left her nothing, as Reuters’ Alison Frankel writes in an excellent summary of the case. Her stepson, Pierce Marshall, then filed a claim saying she owed him money, arguing that she’d defamed him when she said in probate court that he’d coerced his dad into cutting her out of the will.

In turn, Smith filed her own claim for tortious interference which basically alleged he was interfering with her inheritance. The bankruptcy court awarded her $US400 million.

However, the Supreme Court ruled in 2011 the bankruptcy court didn’t have the power to weigh in on Smith’s fight with Marshall, but it left open all sorts of questions about what kinds of decisions bankruptcy judges are allowed to make, as Alison Frankel write in her article, called “Anna Nicole Smith’s biggest legacy? Confusion in bankruptcy case.”

The Supreme Court will revisit those issues in a new bankruptcy case involving a husband and wife whose insurance company went bankrupt, called EBIA v. Arkinson.

In that case, a bankruptcy court ruled that a transaction the company made was fraudulent — an order that the couple said the bankruptcy court didn’t have the power to make. This case could have broader implications than Smith’s, as it presents a more “common story,” as the law firm McDonald Hopkins has written. That firm wrote that Smith’s case, on the other hand, is pretty “torrid.”

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