Anna Nicole Smith’s estate loses bid for millions

The estate of Anna Nicole Smith has failed in its final bid to obtain her late husband’s money, seven years after the death of the Playboy model and reality TV star.

A federal judge in Orange County rejected the effort to obtain about US$44 million (NZ$54.3 million) from the estate of Texas billionaire J. Howard Marshall, whom Smith married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. The oil tycoon died the next year. His will left his US$1.6 billion estate to his son and nothing to Smith.

Smith, under her real name of Vickie Lynn Marshall, challenged the will, claiming that her husband promised to leave her more than $300 million above the cash and gifts showered on her during their 14-month marriage. A Houston jury said Marshall was mentally fit and under no undue pressure when he wrote the will.

Over the course of nearly 20 years, the Texas bankruptcy court and local and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, all rejected Smith’s various attempts to overturn Marshall’s will and trust and to obtain money from his estate.

The efforts continued even after Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in February 2007.

On Monday (local time), US District Court Judge David O. Carter denied a request from Smith’s estate to sanction the estate of Marshall’s son, E. Pierce Marshall.

“Time spent litigating the relationship between Vickie Lynn and J. Howard has extended for nearly five times the length of their relationship and nearly twenty times the length of their marriage. It is neither reasonable nor practical to go forward,” the judge said in his ruling. He noted that it was the last surviving piece of decades of litigation.

“The American taxpayer has supported the burden of this litigation for many years, and it is time for this suit to no longer ‘drag its weary length before the Court,'” Carter concluded, quoting a Supreme Court decision in the case that itself quoted Charles Dickens’ “Bleak House.”

An email message for Howard K. Stern, the executor of Smith’s estate, was not immediately returned Tuesday.

G. Eric Brunstad Jr., attorney for the Marshall family, said in a statement that the family agreed with the judge that it was time to stop the litigation.

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– Stuff


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Latta’s approach to this episode was fascinating, and cleverly devised. Though he presented a number of sobering statistics, Latta was careful to avoid getting bogged down in amongst them, which would have directed attention away from the tangible solutions to the problem he witnessed first-hand.

The first 20 minutes of the hour were directed towards the numbers. Latta presented statistics from Child, Youth and Family (CYF), Children’s Commissioner and paediatrician Dr Russell Wills, and Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Bush, which, in Latta’s words, were appalling.

Latta stated that New Zealand has the second highest child homicide rate in the world. Our child homicide rate is double that of Australia, three times greater than the UK, and six times greater than Italy.

Mike Bush stated that police attend 90,000 family violence related callouts per year, which breaks down to one every six minutes, and that studies have shown that just 20 per cent of cases are reported, meaning the annual number of cases could stretch to 450,000 annually.

Latta pointed out that it is child homicides which garner by far the most attention, but in reality they are the tip of the iceberg.

Latta dedicated the bulk of the hour to interviews with those who were part of the problem and part of the solution. These included several heartfelt moments with Vic Tamati, who fronts the It’s Not OK family violence campaign, and time spent with couple James and Desiree, who are parents to two young children and who have a record of family violence, but are taking steps to rectify the problem.

Latta emphasised the role the community plays in breaking the cycle of family violence, which tends to pass down through generations. He spent time with Henare Ngaera O’Keefe, the brainchild of programmes for children, a community vegetable garden, and a roving barbecue, which share a common goal of bringing people together.

Latta tagged along with Linda Salmon and Briar Deed, two social workers from family violence organisation Te Whanau Tahi, as they made a couple of house visits to some sketchy neighbourhoods. The point of difference in their approach when compared to other government organisations is their insistence on visiting homes and meeting people face to face.

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The government wasn’t let off the hook despite CYF heralding some sympathy earlier in the hour. After answers as to why politicians have a poor track record of long term policies, Latta sat down with former Social Welfare and Finance Minister Sir Michael Cullen. Cullen cited election cycles, self-interests and egos as possible culprits, with Latta pointing out that governments were not taking advice from those working in the field in question.

Of importance to Latta in this episode was the positives of the situation. He concluded that solving other social problems to do with alcohol and poverty would contribute significantly to the country’s record of family violence. He also noted society’s simplistic view of both victims and perpetrators throughout the episode.

Latta believes there is lots we can do, and some people already are. But his priority is for our politicians, who he wants to remain focused on long term solutions that actually work. “We can fix this problem” were Latta’s closing words.

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Latta’s approach to the subject was unlike any other I’ve seen in the past. His relaxed, relatable approach shone through, with colloquialisms aplenty despite the subject being what he is probably the most familiar with so far in the series.


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