Order may end Anna Nicole Smith’s estate battle over late husband’s money

A California federal judge’s order may bring to a close a nearly 20-year court battle as the estate of Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith fights for money from the estate of her billionaire husband, J. Howard Marshall II of Houston.

On Aug. 18, U.S. District Judge David Carter of the Central District of California denied a motion for sanctions filed by the estate of Texas native Smith, also known as Vickie Lynn Marshall. The sanctions motion filed by Smith’s estate sought $44 million from the estate of Pierce Marshall, a son of J. Howard Marshall who inherited his estate.

“There is simply no evidence before the court that justifies awarding sanctions against Pierce’s estate,” Carter wrote, noting that he also declined to allow any further “reformulation” of the sanctions motion.

“The instant case has been proceeding in the bankruptcy court, the district court, the appellate courts and the [U.S.] Supreme Court for nearly 20 years. Time spent litigating the relationship between Vickie Lynn and J. Howard has extended for nearly five times the length of their relationship and nearly 20 times the length of their marriage. It is neither reasonable nor practical to go forward,” Carter wrote.

Noting that the “American taxpayer” has supported the litigation for many years, “it is time for this suit to no longer ‘drag its weary length before the court,’” Carter wrote, citing Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.”

Lawyers for Smith’s estate, Philip Boesch and Benjamin Johnson, both of Boesch Law Group of Santa Monica, Calif., did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment on Carter’s order.

“It is the end of litigation in federal court,” said G. Eric Brunstad Jr., a partner in Dechert in Hartford who represents the Marshall family in the litigation. “I’m very happy for the Marshall family. It’s been a long, long set of litigations.”

Litigation could continue in Texas, however. Brunstad notes that lawyers representing Smith’s estate recently filed an appeal in the First Court of Appeals in Houston of the Texas Probate Court judgment that found Pierce Marshall was the beneficiary of his father’s estate. Tom Cunningham, a partner in Cunningham Darlow of Houston who represents Smith’s estate in the appeal in Howard Stern as Executor of the Estate of Vickie Lynn Marshall v. Elaine Marshall, did not immediately return a telephone message.

Smith, a onetime stripper and reality television personality, married Marshall in 1994 when she was 26. He was 89 and worth an estimated $1.6 billion. He died in 1995 at age 90.


Order May End Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Battle Over Late Husband’s Money
Brenda Sapino Jeffreys
August 21, 2014
Texas Lawyer