Friday, March 19, 2010

In Re Marshall (9th Cir. - March 19, 2010)

Sorry, Anna Nicole Smith. (Or, more accurately, the spirit of Vickie Lynn Marshall, her 3-year old daughter Danniellynn Stern -- the heir to Anna Nicole Smith's estate -- and Larry Birkhead, the three-year old's DNA-established father.)

This saga has played out for the last 15 years, ever since the 89-year old billionaire's death, and includes litigation in a Texas probate court, a federal bankruptcy court, the Ninth Circuit, and even a decision on the merits in the United States Supreme Court.

But I think this one's pretty much all over but the shouting. Here's a decision on the merits. That finds, in a long and hyperprocedural opinion, that the relevant bankruptcy claim that gave rise to the $450 million judgment in favor of Smith was compulsory but non-core, and thus the Texas probate decision was the first "final" judgment, a judgment that voids the bankruptcy court's judgment as a matter of issue preclusion.

Yes, the last installment of this dispute, which involved the "probate exception" to federal jurisdiction, went up to the Supreme Court. So procedural things sometimes are subject to review by an authority higher than a panel of the Ninth Circuit. Particularly in high-profile cases.

But I don't think that's going to be the case here. I think this one's the end of the line. To the benefit of the heirs of E. Pierce Marshall (the billionaire's son) and to the detriment of the heirs of Anna Nicole Smith.