Justices to Hear Case With Celebrity Twist

From a Times Staff Writer

The appeal carried the bland title “Vickie Lynn Marshall vs. E. Pierce Marshall,” and it posed the bland question of whether federal bankruptcy judges had the authority to rule on matters involving wills and estates.

But Marshall vs. Marshall seems destined to be the proverbial “closely watched Supreme Court case” because Vickie Lynn Marshall is Anna Nicole Smith, the former Texas stripper who had her own reality TV show.

In 1993, Smith was Playboy’s Playmate of the Year, and shortly afterward, the 26-year-old married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall. He was 89, and a fan of her strip act.


He died a year later, and Smith has fought with Marshall’s son, Pierce, over an estate valued at more than $1.6 billion.

A Texas probate judge ruled that Marshall’s son was his sole heir and entitled to his fortune. However, a federal bankruptcy judge in California later ruled that Marshall’s son had schemed to move assets from his father’s estate. Smith was awarded $88 million in damages.

Although the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the probate ruling should stand, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the dispute to decide when, if ever, bankruptcy judges can rule on probate matters.

Smith’s lawyer, Howard K. Stern, told Associated Press that his client planned to be at the Supreme Court early next year when her case is heard. “She’s very excited. She will be attending arguments -- there’s no question about that,” he said.