Even by the high-brow standards of the Supreme Court, Tuesday's case over the estate claimed by deceased Texas sex symbol Anna Nicole Smith delves so far into the depths of probate and bankruptcy law that even the most attuned legal minds will be challenged to fully understand all of the complexities now before the justices.
While the high court is known for issuing rulings on great constitutional issues, its routine business often ventures into the mundane interpretation of somewhat obscure laws passed by Congress. In this instance, it's a dispute over a provision in the 1984 Bankruptcy Act.
As any regular reader of supermarket checkout line magazines already knows, the case started with the 1995 death of tycoon J. Howard Marshall and the struggle between Smith, a strip club dancer whom the elderly Marshall married shortly before his death, and Marshall's son Pierce over claims to the hundreds of millions dollars left in the estate.
Over the years the case has worked its way through various federal bankruptcy courts and Texas probate proceedings and a much-publicized stop at the Supreme Court in 2006. Then, camera crews surrounded the court to get a look at Smith who died nine months after the justices ruled unanimously in her favor.
The 2006 ruling sent the case back to the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals for further review.
Last year that court again ruled against Smith, known as Vickie Lynn Marshall in the legal records, and the executor of her estate, Howard K. Stern.
One of the many oddities of the case is that Pierce Marshall is also dead. So the dispute before the justices is between two estates fighting over J. Howard Marshall's will.
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Anna Nicole Smith Case Returns to Court Tuesday