It was truly a high-asset divorce in every sense of that phrase, and the legal battle surrounding its material details has been playing out in courts for more than 15 years. It may have finally come to an end last week in the United States Supreme Court.
The case of Anna Nicole Smith, a former Playboy playmate, is well known to many, given the media’s near obsession with her marriage to late Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall. Smith and Marshall married in 1994, when she was 27 and he was 90. Marshall died a year after the couple was wed. Smith died in 2007.
Marshall gave Smith millions of dollars in gifts during the marriage, but did not provide for her in his will. Following his death, she filed a petition in bankruptcy court, and was awarded $475 million.
Marshall’s son — now also deceased — challenged that award, and thus began the long slog through the court system.
Finality may have ensued last Thursday, with a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that analysts call “technical” and that held that, although the bankruptcy court had statutory authority to enter judgment in Smith’s favor, it did not have the constitutional authority to do so.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion, called the lawsuit “so complicated that no two lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises.”
The legal counsel for Marshall’s estate cited vindication, saying that Marshall’s intent to only provide Smith with the gifts he gave her was “always perfectly clear.”
Smith’s lawyer, conversely, said that separate ongoing proceedings could still result in Smith’s estate receiving money from her former husband’s estate.
Related Resource: ABC News, “Supreme Court Rules in Anna Nicole Smith’s 15-Year Legal Battle” June 23, 2011