Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual bedfellow in the Supreme Court fight over her late husband’s fortune: the Bush administration.
The administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer filed arguments on Smith’s behalf and wants to take part when the case is argued before the justices.
The court will decide early next year whether to let the U.S. solicitor general share time with Smith’s attorney during the one hour argument on Feb. 28.
Smith, a television reality star and native Texan, plans to attend the court argument.
She is trying to collect millions of dollars from the estate of J. Howard Marshall II, the oil tycoon she married in 1994 when he was 89 and she was a 26-year-old topless dancer in Houston. Marshall died in 1995.
Like Marshall, President Bush was a Texas oil man. Both attended Yale. Both held government positions in Washington.
There are differences. Marshall had a penchant for strippers, and the court record before the justices is one of poverty, greed, sex and family rivalry.
A federal bankruptcy judge sided with Smith in the fight over her late husband’s estate, awarding her $474 million. That was reduced to about $89 million by a federal district judge, then thrown out altogether by a federal appeals court.
The issue before the high court is one only lawyers would love: when may federal courts hear claims that involve state probate proceedings. Smith lost in Texas state courts, which found that E. Pierce Marshall was the sole heir to his father’s estate.
The Bush administration’s filings in the case are technical. Without getting into the details of the family squabble, Solicitor General Paul Clement said that the justices should protect federal court jurisdiction in disputes.
Filings are due next month by groups backing E. Pierce Marshall.
When justices return from their break next month, they will consider whether a New Orleans restaurant must pay a former bartender in a sexual harassment lawsuit.
There’s a catch, however.
The Moonlight Cafe is out of business after Hurricane Katrina.
Justices had first planned to hear the case in November, but they changed the date to January saying they wanted to give lawyers “additional needed time to prepare for the case while dealing with their unexpected losses as a result of Katrina.” The court also extended filing deadlines.
The cafe’s lawyer, Brett Prendergast of New Orleans, said his house and office were badly damaged and that the restaurant suffered storm and looting damage.
Jeffrey Schwartz, the New Orleans lawyer for the former bartender, had to relocate his family and office out-of-state.
A jury had awarded Jenifer Arbaugh $40,000, but it’s unclear if she wins at the Supreme Court how much the Moonlight Cafe will be able to pay.
The traditional Supreme Court Christmas party went on without the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who was well-known for his love of the annual event.
Court employees gather each year to sing carols with the justices and enjoy snacks around the court’s tree. Court members of varying faiths, including Jewish members, have attended.
In the past Rehnquist led the singing _ and made sure that others sang heartily.