May 24, 2001 06:03pm
Judge Throws Out $475M Court Award
by: Chelsea J. Carter
(SANTA ANA, CA) -- A federal judge Thursday threw out a U.S. bankruptcy court ruling that gave former Playboy Playmate Anna Nicole Smith $475 million from her late husband's estate.
U.S. District Court Judge David Carter said he will review the case. He called his ruling neither a victory nor defeat for either side.
Smith, 33, lost a Texas court battle in March over the fortune left behind by her husband, oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II. The two met in 1991 while she was working as a stripper in Houston. He died at age 90 in August 1995, 14 months after they wed.
The Texas jury found that Marshall made no agreement to leave part of his estate to son J. Howard Marshall III or Smith. The jury ruled in favor of E. Pierce Marshall, another son of the tycoon.
Smith won the $475 million judgment in a California bankruptcy court, getting a portion of the estate before the Texas case was resolved. E. Pierce Marshall appealed, questioning whether California had jurisdiction and whether Smith's claim was a bankruptcy issue.
Carter told attorneys the case was properly in federal jurisdiction, but said the central claim of the Smith lawsuit that led to the award was not a bankruptcy issue.
``Because the counterclaim is a non-core proceeding, the bankruptcy court judgment is vacated,'' Carter said in a written ruling. ``The court's decision means only that final judgment in this non-core proceeding must be entered by this court rather than the bankruptcy court.''
Marshall called the ruling ``a major victory.'' Smith's attorneys did not immediately comment on the ruling.