Anna Nicole Smith received a unanimous thumbs up from the United States Supreme Court on Monday, paving the way for the former Playboy Playmate of the Year to collect millions of dollars she claims were promised her by her late Texas oil tycoon husband, J. Howard Marshall II.
The decision by the justices overturned an appeals court ruling that the former reality TV star, pinup and weight-loss pitchwoman was entitled to nothing because federal courts lacked jurisdiction to hear claims that are also involved in state probate hearings.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in Monday's ruling that the appeals court was wrong and the district court properly asserted jurisdiction over Smith's claims against Marshall's son, E. Pierce Marshall, Reuters reports.
Smith, who met Marshall in 1991 when she was a 26-year-old topless dancer, wed the 89-year-old Texas oil tycoon in 1994. Marshall died the following year. His son, Pierce Marshall, claims his father's various wills and trusts make him the sole heir of a fortune estimated to be as high as $1.6 billion – which triggered the family feud that played out in courtrooms in both California and Texas.
Pierce Marshall insisted that the more than $6 million in gifts Smith received in 1994 was all his father wanted her to get – a view upheld by a Texas state probate court. But then Smith was awarded $474 million by a federal bankruptcy judge in California because of her claims that the son had interfered with her intended inheritance.
A federal district court judge subsequently slashed Smith's award to $88 million. But the appeals court ruled she was entitled to nothing because federal courts lack jurisdiction in probate disputes.
But now the Supreme Court has overturned that decision, and Smith should be seeing green again – just as soon as lawyers get going on the next round.
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