Illustration for article titled Supreme Court Takes On Anna Nicole Smith. Again.

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the estate of Anna Nicole Smith. It's not the first time the nation's highest court has taken an interest in the dead actress's case.

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They ruled on a related claim in 2006.

The crux of the matter is how much money Smith was entitled to from the estate of her elderly husband, Texas millionaire J. Howard Marshall II, but essentially the Supreme Court took an interest because of the morass of issues involving which court had the legitimacy to rule on the case.

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Now both of the major parties in the case — Smith, and her former husband's son — are dead, even as the case drags on, fourteen years after it began. It is, as CNN notes, "the unusual scenario of two estates now fighting over the still-frozen assets of another estate." It's even more complicated because the case is being pushed by Howard K. Stern (also in the photo above), who is himself in court on charges that he conspired to keep Smith addicted to drugs, and that he used false names to get those drugs. But hey, he's not her baby's father. Because that would be really complicated.

Justices To Again Review Probate Dispute By Anna Nicole Smith's Estate [CNN]
Related: Anna Nicole Smith Wins Supreme Court Case [NYT]

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DISCUSSION

I'm confused as to why there isn't already sufficient law on this issue to decide the case without all this drawn out litigation.

Pretty young women marry elderly men for their money fairly often, I thought. And it's not unusual for a spouse to die before he was allegedly going to change his will to include the wife. So this case doesn't seem all that remarkable except for the largeness of the husband's estate and the minor celebrity of the widow.

But my understanding was that in many states if the wife is left out of the will and trust, she can sue for a spousal share and that's about it, not for promises made to her by husband that he never ratified by making a will or trust.

I'm just wondering what the hell is so different about this case that requires not one, but two Supreme Court decisions and the decisions of several lower courts.