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Last Updated: Monday, 1 May 2006, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Court win for ex-Playmate Smith
Anna Nicole Smith arriving at the Supreme Court
Ms Smith is fighting over her late husband's fortune
The US Supreme Court has cleared the way for ex-Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith to stake her claim to millions of dollars in her late husband's will.

Ms Smith married Texan oil baron J Howard Marshall II in 1994 when she was 26 and he was 89. He died a year later, leaving an $1.6bn (900m) estate.

Ms Smith has been fighting his son for a share of the estate ever since.

Justices overturned a lower court's ruling on jurisdiction that effectively meant Ms Smith was entitled to nothing.

The case hinged on the technical issue of the conditions under which federal courts may hear claims that involve state probate proceedings.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in the Supreme Court's ruling that Ms Smith should have another opportunity to pursue her claims in federal court.

Swarm of photographers

Few events at the sober Supreme Court have caused as much of a stir as Ms Smith's arrival for a hearing in late February.

Those who queued for hours saw a demure-looking Ms Smith, dressed in black and wearing sunglasses, arrive swarmed by photographers.

She later left through a side door and sped away in a black car.

The latest ruling means the legal battle between Ms Smith and Mr Marshall's son, E Pierce Marshall, will not end any time soon.

Ms Smith claimed that her husband promised her half of his estate. The son said the more than $6m (3.26m) in gifts she received in 1994 was all his father wanted her to get.

In Texas, a state probate court ruled that E Pierce Marshall was entitled to his father's estate.

But in California, a federal bankruptcy judge ruled for Ms Smith and awarded her $474m (258m).

A federal district court judge then cut her award to $88m (48m).

The appeals court subsequently ruled she was entitled to nothing because federal courts lack jurisdiction in probate disputes.

This ruling has now been overturned.


SEE ALSO
Ex-Playmate loses estate fortune
31 Dec 04 |  Americas
Ex-Playmate widow awarded $88m
07 Mar 02 |  Americas
Court rules against ex-Playmate
08 Mar 01 |  Americas
Ex-Playmate shares tycoon's estate
28 Sep 00 |  Americas

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