January 05, 2001 10:58am
Anna Nicole Smith Drops Texas Fight
by: Mark Babineck
(HOUSTON, TX) -- Saying they've gotten what they wanted in a $475 million California bankruptcy judgment, lawyers for former stripper and Playboy Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith withdrew Friday from the Texas courtroom fight for a piece of her late husband's oil fortune.
``She has won her case, she got her judgment in California, and there is no reason for her to pursue this case any longer,'' Tom Cunningham, Smith's chief Houston attorney, said after dropping out.
Smith was not present Friday, but she made a rare appearance at the ongoing probate trial Wednesday and told reporters that she wanted to pull out.
Smith and disinherited stepson J. Howard Marshall III had sued his brother, E. Pierce Marshall, claiming he blocked their rightful inheritance after the death of J. Howard Marshall II.
On Dec. 29, a California bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $475 million from the fortune, ruling Pierce Marshall deprived Smith of her expectancy of an inheritance. Pierce Marshall is appealing the decision.
The Houston trial, which began in September, will continue for Howard Marshall III. His attorneys expect to wrap up presenting evidence by mid-month. The defense then will begin its case, which includes countersuits against the plaintiffs claiming the entire case was frivolous.
Cunningham said the countersuits have no merit, saying Smith sued ``in good faith.''
Rusty Hardin, an attorney for Pierce Marshall, said he expects Smith to remain available to testify.
``She'll be on the stand in this case. The question is what the scope is,'' Hardin said.
Harris County Probate Judge Mike Wood said the jury, which did not view a morning hearing, would not be notified of Smith's decision until her lawyers stop attending court. Her lawyers will continue going to court until the countersuit is settled.
The elder Marshall was 89 and Smith was 26 when they married in 1994. He died a year later, and the battle for his estate began soon after.
Los Angeles federal Bankruptcy Judge Samuel Bufford initially found in favor of Smith on Sept. 27, but waited until last week to issue his final order.
David Margulies, spokesman for Pierce Marshall, said legal experts he's contacted believe Smith eventually will lose her California case.
``If she's planning on spending any of it (her settlement), she's got a long way to go,'' Hardin said.
In a brief statement, Pierce Marshall accused Smith of withdrawing to ``flee the facts.''