May 2, 2006

The Anna Nicole Smith case.

One of the perils of lawprof blogging is that when the Supreme Court issues a decision in your field, posting about it seems compulsory. And this one even has a big hulking celebrity who would ordinarily be fun to write about for almost no reason at all. But I don't wanna to write about the Anna Nicole Smith case.

It's a unanimous opinion about a fine point of a doctrine about which I've never made any class read a single case in over 20 years of teaching Federal Jurisdiction. Suffice it to say: The jurisdiction of the federal courts is defined by statutes. Old case law contains a judge-made exception for probate cases. In the face of a statute that contains no exception and old case law making an exception, what are you going to do? Read the exception narrowly.

17 comments:

XWL said...

Did anyone else find it 'interesting' that Justice Ginsberg was chosen to write the opinion?

(and no, I didn't read the opinion, I just wouldn't have expected Chief Justice Roberts to assign the opinion to Justice Ginsberg, maybe I'm wrong to find that unusual)

(also, at Volokh Conspiracy, Prof. Lindgren managed to post a photo along with his comments)

(Am I wrong to find it 'interesting' that Prof. Althouse chose not to post a photo?)

Ann Althouse said...

XWL: I think Ginsburg was chosen because she is a Civil Procedure expert. It is a subject she taught when she was a law professor. I met her when I was first teaching Fedjur in the mid-1980s, and she told me I was lucky I'd gottten a chance to teach the course when I was so junior. At most schools, at least back then, it was considered a plum course that you'd have to wait to get a chance to teach.

Dawn said...

Ann, for those of us not familiar with federal jurisdiction, what does this opinion mean? Is Smith/Marshall entitled to her share of the estate as she alledges, or does this go back to the district court?

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Does she finally get the cash?

Ann Althouse said...

Bunker: The Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit court which had only said there was no jurisdiction. So now they've got to go back to the circuit court and argue about the substance of the case. Anna Nicole won at the district court level, but the other side can still try to overturn that.

hygate said...

Professor,

I understand that Anna Nichole won this round on a technicality, but how many more 'bites at the apple' (Do judges really say that?) do the two sides have? In other words, when will this long national nightmare end?

Ann Althouse said...

Hygate: Anna won on the merits in the trial court. Her opponent got that reversed in the 9th Circuit on jurisdiction, which much more deserves to be called a technicality. Give the lady her money, and then everyone can go home and be a selfish bastard.

Joe said...

She worked hard for the money. It isn't easy to be a trophy wife with Viagra now on the market.
Oh, wait, she loved him. Nevermind.

Smilin' Jack said...

But I don't wanna to write about the Anna Nicole Smith case.

I don't care if you don't write about it, but you could at least post some pictures.

David said...

I think Roberts has a fine sense of humor and appreciates the possibility of the inevitable photo op of Ginsberg paired up with Anna Nicole.

Marghlar said...

At most schools, at least back then, it was considered a plum course that you'd have to wait to get a chance to teach.

That's funny. At my school, it gets taught both by old hands (some of our most famous con law scholars), and then sometimes by brand new VAPs. Doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason.

Do you know why it was supposed to be such a treat to teach? I mean, I like ancillary jurisdiction as much as the next guy, but seriously?

J said...

"Oh, wait, she loved him. Nevermind."

Marrying for money may be many things, but illegal isn't one of them. And her inventiveness and tenacity in this case are impressive.

MadisonMan said...

At least they were a heterosexual couple. Can you imagine the travesty this would have been had they been a same-sex couple? What a mockery of marriage that would have been!

vw: advbfp, but the real interesting part is that the handicap wheelchair icon is right below the box!

Goesh said...

Ain't she a looker!? She and the geezer were probably quite content in the company of each other. No doubt he doted on her and she liked the attention and now she gets a cut of the estate. End of story.

Elizabeth said...

Is anyone really trying to argue that she hoodwinked some gullible old geezer? She was a 26-year-old
stripper, so he didn't meet her at a museum board of directors luncheon. Rich old man gets to finish off a nice life with a pretty, young, wild child. If he'd wanted a mistress, with no legal rights as a spouse, he surely could have arranged for that. She's a gold digger, but so what? This is an arrangement as old as money. I'd say she earned hers as much as the son has. All he's done is to be born; she had to work for the dough!

Cato Younger said...

Ann - Anna lost a 5 month trial on the merits in Texas in front of a jury. It's more than a technicality. At the very least she has a huge collection problem and will most likely never see any money. She should really quit wasting everyone's time.

Goesh - She got already. She wants more and will not likely get it. End of story.

Elizabeth - To some extent I agree with you but where I disagree with you is that she is the one who is trying to change the "arrangement". Since he knew what he was getting he was also able to decide how much it would cost. About $7MM ought to do it. Since you clearly did not follow the probate trial, it seems to me Pierce Marshall did more than just be born. He worked for and with his father for over 30 years prior to his death. I cannot say what that is worth but Howard Marshall seemed to say it in writing.

Ann Althouse said...

Elizabeth: I completely agree with you.

Cato, re "technicality": I was only refuting Hygate's statement that she won in the US Supreme Court on a technicality. She didn't. Her opponent won in the 9th Circuit on jurisdiction. She won in the trial court. I didn't mean to address the effect of the state law case on this one. She will need to overcome claims that that case precludes this one, and you can call that issue a "technicality." But both sides are trying to win on it.

Cato Younger said...

Ann - I understood what you meant. I disagree with your refutation. Pierce won on a technicality in the 9th. Anna won on a technicality in the SCOTUS. The issue is exactly the same. Hygate is correct.

She prevailed in a 5 day bench trial and lost a 95 day jury trial. I think we can definitely agree that preclusion is a technical issue which will have a big impact. There seem to be many other remaining issues which are not technical.