Posts Tagged ‘Anna Nicole Smith case’
March 24th, 2010 at 1:54 pm
What Does Anna Nicole Smith Have to Do with Property Rights? Plenty
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As CFIF has noted before, former Hollywood “star” Anna Nicole Smith has made quite a splash in the legal world – and not by diving nude off a roof into a pool at a trial lawyers’ convention in Cancun.

The litigious executors of Smith’s estate have attempted to manipulate our judicial system, filing multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions to claim private property to which they have no right.  True to our federalist system, state courts were best situated to resolve this claim.  Unfortunately, her attorneys were able to successfully game the system by playing “jackpot justice” and filing duplicative suits in federal court elsewhere.  Their legal maneuvering has been so abusive that it’s dragged on for more than 15 years, and outlived every single one of the original litigants in the case.

Fortunately, it appears the end of the road may finally be in sight.

Late last week, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals vindicated federalism’s division of powers and ruled in favor of private property rights.  It did so by recognizing the autonomy of state courts and preventing federal bankruptcy courts from overstepping their bounds by improperly interfering in matters properly left to local law.  This is an important step in preventing any further erosions of the concept of federalism in our court system, and vital to preventing trial lawyers and perpetual lawsuit abusers from seeking out favorable rulings by circumventing the state courts best equipped to negotiate state specific estate laws.

It’s also important to note that this ruling impacts more than just Hollywood starlets like Anna Nicole.  If the courts had ruled in favor of Smith’s estate, any family inheritance or estate matter anywhere could have been subject to such frivolous forum shopping.  Legal expert Todd Zywicki, who has long followed the case and also filed an amicus brief in the suit, wrote more on the case on the popular legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy.  His conclusion, in plain English:

“A clear line between state law and bankruptcy court is important to keep cases like this from arising in the future.”

We should be thankful that the Federal courts have drawn that line in favor of property rights, at least for now.  Unfortunately, Smith’s executor, coincidentally named Howard K. Stern, has indicated that he intends to appeal.  Accordingly, the United States Supreme Court could still overturn the Ninth Circuit’s ruling in a fit of misjudgment.  Let’s hope the second time around, the Supreme Court gets this right, and upholds the Ninth Circuit’s protection of property rights, the rule of law and federalism.