Thursday, February 22, 2007

Anna Nicole: Follow the Money

Judge Larry Achieves New Low For Tabloid TV
In A Story Made For Number Crunchers


The Cool Justice Report
Feb. 22, 2007

EDITOR’S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report,

Even as she lies moldering in a Florida morgue, there is no dignity in the life or death of the former Playboy centerfold. Once again the press has found celebrity courtroom controversy. It is the zenith of reality TV. Even Fox couldn’t have foreseen an event like this. What is it about the dysfunctional lives of the entertainment set that so commands our interest?

The issue: where should Anna Nicole, a/k/a Vicki, be buried? Really? I think not. Will those who are fighting this battle sit and grieve at the grave sight once the klieg lights and cameras have been turned off? Is this really about where this unfortunate should be laid to rest?

Teams, yes teams, of lawyers for each of the competing sides are waging this battle and a greater war in three different arenas: Florida, California and the Bahamas.

Then there is the paternity and custody of baby Dannielynn. Three more claimants there! DNA testing will solve that question. Simple enough to accomplish. The poor dead woman’s body was originally denied burial for 10 days to allow the harvesting of DNA. In and of itself that order displayed a lack of compassion and limited scientific knowledge. Harvesting DNA samples is a matter of minutes.

The true battle is over the claims Anna Nicole had to the estate of her late husband. After eleven years of litigation that battle rages. Ironically the two main parties are both now dead. But here is the important point. When you die with the right to a cause of action (lawsuit) your estate succeeds to your rights and can continue the fight and reap the results of the verdict.

Well that one is easy to answer, you say; she left a will naming her executor, Howard K. Stern (not the shock jock, although this guy’s persona is seemingly every bit as vulgar, according to Momma Virgie). As executor he is charged with the responsibility to carry out her final wishes as exemplified by her will.

There is another controversy. A faxed copy of the will was sent to Stern displaying a date days in advance of Anna’s death. Stern’s lawyer claims an error in the dating process of the fax machine. That one exists for another day but it lends to the sinister aura Virgie is attempting to paint around Howard.

The characters:

Howard K. Stern: a one client lawyer/friend/lover/executor. If you believe momma Virgie this guy enabled the claimed drug excesses that may have led to her death. He has no income and has testified that Anna was his benefactress. He is resisting DNA testing. The birth certificate lists him as the father. Soon to come will be the claims of undue influence and using drugs to control Anna Nicole. If he submits to DNA testing the issue of paternity would get quickly resolved.

Larry Birkhead: boyish nice guy who claims paternity of the baby and no real interest in controlling the burial. Control the baby and you may control the ultimate prize, the late husband’s estate.

Momma Virgie Arthur: the estranged Texas mother who closely resembles the estranged Momma in the movie Million Dollar Baby. Allegations are flying around that she is looking to profit from her daughter’s untimely death.

Prince Frederic Van Anhalt: husband of ZsaZsa Gabor and another claimed lover of Anna’s. He just joined the fray and wants to take that DNA test.

Dr. Joshua Perper, the medical examiner. Jokingly misnamed “Dr. Pepper” by our erstwhile future celebrity, Judge Larry Seidlin.

The there is Judge Larry Seidlin: Why do we need to know that this guy was once a cabbie in Brooklyn? Is it because he acts more like a cab driver than a judge presiding over such a solemn matter. Does he really have a demo tape seeking to be the next Judge Judy? In 32 years in a courtroom I have never seen a judge intrude in a case to the extent that this guy has. He is the trier of fact, the determiner. He should appear neutral and referee the legal arguments raised by the lawyers.

Instead he has latched onto this case as his own pulpit to share his witticisms and homespun philosophies; but to what end? Can the guy just listen and make a decision? “Dr. Pepper” keeps interrupting to tell him that the woman’s body is succumbing to the natural process of deterioration. Maybe if this guy stopped making speeches about issues not before him and moved the hearing along there could be a decision. He so badly wants to control the entire controversy among all of these parties. His 15 minutes of fame is coming to a close and he craves the exposure.

I am a proponent of cameras in the courtroom for many reasons but this guy is the living embodiment of why judicial systems resist the concept. If this was the body of some vagrant or just the average person would we have ever heard of Judge Larry.

The real irony is that Anna Nicole Smith turned her own life into a caricature. Her death has only underscored that. Now that people have tired of the poor missing girl in Aruba, this one will keep Greta busy for months to come.

Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim’s corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is a Charter Fellow, American Academy of Trial Counsel. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website,
Andy Thibault, author of Law & Justice In Everyday Life and a private investigator, is an adjunct lecturer of English and a mentor in the MFA writing program at Western Connecticut State University. Thibault also serves as a consulting editor for the literary journal Connecticut Review. Website, and Blog,

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