Drawing attention has always been something Anna Nicole Smith was good at. When she married a much older oil tycoon, the world gasped alleging she was only after his money. In her defense she claimed J. Howard Marshall wanted his money to be left to her, but his family has continued to fight to argue against the claim.
Even after her high profile death, Smith continues to ruffle the waters bringing a battle between courts that will affect the future ability of bankruptcy courts to make certain determinations.
During the original court battle over the inheritance money, Anna Nicole filed for bankruptcy. A series of counterclaims were filed until the California bankruptcy court awarded Smith $450 million. However, a Texas state court ruled that Smith had no legal claim on the estate and awarded all of Marshall’s estate to his son, Pierce Marshall. This was the beginning of a state-to-state court battle that eventually made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld the Texas court decision.
What was once a court battle over inheritance money became a matter of court jurisdiction. The upholding of the Texas court ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court has now become a precedent that limits the ability of bankruptcy courts to issue final rulings on some state law issues. By the California bankruptcy court having been overturned, it has been stripped of its ability to rule in matters regarding certain assets and liabilities matters. This Supreme Court precedent could become problematic in that state bankruptcy courts may become more limited in their ability to make final judgments.