January 21, 2011
Transcript of Anna Nicole Smith Argument at Supreme Court
You can access the transcript here. This I think will be one of the most important cases in years on the issue of the "core" jurisdiction of the bankruptcy court. Judge Bufford entered judgment for Anna Nicole Smith in the original trial in bankruptcy court. At that time, the Texas court had not yet ruled. His decision was appealed to the district court which entered judgment again for a lower amount. By that time, the Texas court had ruled for Pierce Marshall. If the Judge Bufford had core jurisdiction, he could ignore the Texas ruling since it had not happened. If the issue was not core, the district court would be bound by the Texas ruling.
The general rule is that bankruptcy judges determine the amount of claims, i.e., debts against the estate. Pierce Marhsall started the matter in bankruptcy court alleging defamation and alleging that it was non-dischargeable. Anna Nicole Smith counter-claimed for damages against Pierce Marshall for turning her husband against her before he died. Determining a counter-claim is typically part of the claim determining process and therefore "core." Is her claim against Pierce somehow outside the claims determination process? The 9th Circuit said yes therefore Bufford had no jurisdiction to enter a judgment and Anna's various hopeful heirs are out of luck.
The 9th Circuit opinion is a pretty fun read for the most part. It has a little history of Howard Marshall and a great summary of how the bankruptcy court's jurisdiction works.
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