White House Tackles Anna Nicole Case

White House Tackles Anna Nicole Case
Steve Granitz/Wireimage

updated 12/26/2005 at 08:20 AM EST

originally published 12/26/2005 08:20AM

Justice makes for strange bedfellows: Playboy playmate and onetime TV reality show star Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual ally in her legal fight over her late husband's fortune: the Bush administration's top Supreme Court lawyer.

Solicitor General Paul Clement, who has filed arguments on Smith's behalf, wants to participate in the case when it is argued before the justices.

The Bush administration's filings in the case are strictly technical, reports the Associated Press. Without digging into the specifics of the family squabble over the estate of oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II, Clement said the justices should protect federal court jurisdiction in disputes.

The highest court in the land is scheduled to decide early next year whether to permit the U.S. solicitor general to share time with Smith's attorney during the one-hour argument on Feb. 28. Native Texan Smith, 38, is trying to collect millions of dollars. She married Marshall in 1994, when he was 89 and she was a 26-year-old topless dancer in Houston. Marshall died in 1995.

In previous rulings, a federal bankruptcy judge sided with Smith in her claim on the estate, awarding her $474 million – subsequently reduced to about $89 million by a federal district judge. It was then thrown out altogether by a federal appeals court.

The current issue before the high court involves the question of federal courts' hearing claims that involve state probate proceedings. Smith lost in Texas state courts, which found that E. Pierce Marshall was the sole heir to his father's estate.

In other legal news, original Survivor winner Richard Hatch, 44, was denied some key motions in his upcoming trial on tax-evasion charges. According to a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office, Hatch's lawyers had requested a trial delay and a total amount Hatch supposedly owes the government.

Prosecutors claim that Hatch – who has said he has done no wrong – failed to pay federal income tax on his $1 million Survivor prize and other income. Jury selection is due to begin Jan. 10.

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