Daily Kos on danger of Stern v. Marshall

Could Anna Nicole Smith screw up our civil rights?
January 10, 2011
Daily Kos Community Site

Friends, I have been away for awhile, as most of you know, I’m working on my emerging democracies book while guest lecturing.  However, sometimes you see something so egregious you just have to write about it.  Based on something a friend sent me yesterday, here it is..  Anna Nicole’s gold-digging hanger-ons, could really screw up our speciality court system by rewriting precedent.   Bad News = People could literally “court shop” to find one that seems “receptive” (cough, cough) to there case.   In my opinion, this could undermine our judicial system and bring up a whole new possible way to corrupt justices as the cases are shopped.

Could Anna Nicole Smith Impact Your Civil Rights?

The Supreme Court will soon write another chapter in the tumultuous life of Anna Nicole Smith.  The Justices will decide the fate of the infamous 15 year estate battle between Smith and her former husband of 14 months, businessman J. Howard Marshall II.  As Stern v. Marshall is argued before the highest court in the land, legal experts will watch closely.  While this grueling legal battle has gained some attention in the gossip blogs over the years, what many may not know is that the ramifications of this salacious case could have major repercussions on Americans’ civil rights if the Justices decide in favor of Stern.  The case has raised some red flags with many activists that civil claims may be subjected unfairly to adjudication in specialty courts.

This case zeros-in on the jurisdiction of bankruptcy courts.  The Smith-Stern camp claims that a personal tort claim can be considered “core” to a bankruptcy proceeding.  Yet the US Code expressly prohibits personal injury torts from being classified as a “core” bankruptcy issue.

Allowing bankruptcy courts to rule on issues outside their defined jurisdiction would not only be unconstitutional but also set a bad legal precedent.  If the Supremes side with Stern, basic civil rights could be inadvertently violated.  Legal briefs and experts contend that troubling issues could arise if legal counterclaims in a specialty bankruptcy court are allowed to overrule a district civil court ruling.  As National Black Chamber of Commerce President Harry Alford states, “Stern v. Marshall highlights the importance of maintaining the long-held tradition of allowing state and federal courts – who are constitutionally empowered to rule broadly on a variety of issues – to hear cases involving potential violation of civil rights.”

On January 18th the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Stern v. Marshall.  Hopefully the Justices entrusted to uphold our Constitution will recognize the perils to basic civil rights if specialty courts are given powers beyond their intended authority.  Even though this case is closely associated with the highly publicized saga of Anna Nicole Smith the implications of the high court’s ruling are, in fact, quite significant.