Anna Nicole Smith to Have Her Day in Court — Again

Faster than you can say "gold digger," a federal judge on Thursday threw out the $475 million judgment previously awarded former Playboy mannequin Anna Nicole Smith in the battle over her late sugar daddy's, er, husband's estate. Smith, you'll remember, married oil baron J. Howard Marshall in 1994 when he was just 89 and she was a love-struck (and very mature) 26-year-old. When he died the following year, she claimed that he had offered her half his $1.4 billion estate to marry him.

"Neither party has prevailed at the present time," U.S. District Judge David Carter wrote in a ruling handed down to Smith and her, uh, former son-in-law Pierce Marshall, who's been battling Smith both in the courts and through the press. Carter has promised to review the case himself and perhaps call witnesses for additional testimony.

Last year a federal bankruptcy judge awarded Smith, whose real name is Vickie Lynn Marshall, an apparent victory in the case, but a Texas Probate Court determined that Pierce Marshall was the sole heir and that neither his wayward older brother, Howard Marshall III, nor Smith had claim to it. Pierce Marshall then appealed the bankruptcy court hearing, saying that federal courts had no jurisdiction in the matter.

Carter ruled that the federal courts do indeed have jurisdiction, but threw out the decision anyway. The pending review, Carter continued, "will enable this court to decide whether J. Howard Sr. promised a gift to Vickie, whether Pierce interfered with that gift, and also whether Pierce has destroyed and failed to produce relevant evidence in a way that justified the imposition of sanctions."

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