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Firm trial, appellate and probate skills dominated in complex and lengthy battle and win against Anna Nicole Smith for the $1.6 billion estate of J. Howard Marshall.

Firm lawyers battled victoriously before juries and appellate judges for decades to preserve the $1.6 billion estate of the late J. Howard Marshall for certain family members. The legal team vigorously protected the interests of the billionaire’s son E. Pierce Marshall, his heirs and other members of the Marshall family against the claims of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith who was married to Marshall for one year before he died.

The complex legal battles were fought on two major fronts that highlighted both the trial and appellate skills of firm lawyers. One fight was in probate court in Texas and in the appeal of that verdict that left Ms. Smith out of the estate. The second fight was over a California bankruptcy judge’s decision that initially favored Ms. Smith. Ware, Jackson, Lee, O’Neill, Smith & Barrow lawyers successfully defended the Marshall family in appellate courts on that score, including twice at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Lawyers who protected client interest in these high-stakes cases include partners Don Jackson, Eileen O’Neill and Tim Lee and associate Michelle Meriam.

The highly publicized probate case was won when a Harris County jury found against the claims of Ms. Smith. The jury not only granted firm clients the estate but also some millions in counterclaims for fraud and tortious interference that survived judicial review. Firm lawyers also kept the win intact at the First Court of Appeals except for minor changes that included issues surrounding legal fees.

The California battle was fought simultaneously after a judge there granted Ms. Smith more than $400 million of the estate, and later when courts cut that down to $89 million. This matter went twice to the U.S. Supreme Court. First Ms. Smith won the right to take her complaints to federal court. But crucially, the second high court decision declared that a significant provision of the bankruptcy code was unconstitutional.  Ware Jackson clients were victorious when the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in California reversed the judgment against Pierce Marshall on grounds that it was precluded by the earlier Texas probate judgment obtained by the firm in that initial probate trial. Thus Ms. Smith was left without a share of the estate once and for all.

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