A Bleak House

Anna Nicole Smith case finally laid to rest: How it affects her 4-year-old daughter

Anna Nicole Smith case finally laid to rest: How it affects her 4-year-old daughter

News_Anna Nicole Smith
Anna Nicole Smith
News_Dannielynn Smith-Birkhead_Larry Birkhead
Dannielynn Smith-Birkhead with father Larry Birkhead Photo by Right/Fame Pictures
News_J. Howard Marshall_Anna Nicole Smith
J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole Smith
News_Anna Nicole Smith
News_Dannielynn Smith-Birkhead_Larry Birkhead
News_J. Howard Marshall_Anna Nicole Smith

The Supreme Court case over the estate of late oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II has finally come to a close.

Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith's estate has been locked in litigation with the Marshall estate ever since the billionaire died in 1995 a year after marrying Smith, although she was not included in the will.

Smith fought Marshall's son Pierce Marshall for years before both parties died, he in 2006 and she, tragically, in 2007.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts compared the case to Bleak House, the Charles Dickens' novel about a never-ending lawsuit.

The crux of the case in recent years (Smith was awarded $475 million in damages in 2000 after losing an earlier case in probate court) has been over whether the Texas probate court or the California federal bankruptcy court had authority over the case.

In its second and final trip to the Supreme Court, the court found that Smith's sole heir, her now 4-year-old daughter Dannielynn Birkhead, is not entitled to any of her former husband's $1.6 billion estate. Smith's most recent judgment had reduced the damages, but still awarded her estate more than $89 million.

Although the decision doesn't affect any of the now-deceased original parties, it does carry implications for bankruptcy litigation, whose constitutional limits were curtailed by Roberts' major opinion.