Your Lawyer and Your Best Friend: Howard K. Stern

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Stern is a native of Los Angeles and currently lives in Santa Monica, CA, where he has been a member of the State Bar of California since 1994. Prior to his admittance, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, as an undergraduate and the University of California, Los Angeles, for law school. Almost immediately after he began practicing law, Stern developed a professional relationship with Smith when he started handling her modeling contracts in the mid-1990s.

Smith is best known for gracing the cover of Playboy magazine in March of 1992. Before answering an audition notice for Playboy in October of 1991, a decision that would change her life, Smith struggled to support herself and her young son, Daniel, while working for Wal-Mart, Red Lobster, and, finally, Grantedi's, a local strip bar. After her tremendous landing in the limelight, Smith packed up and moved to Los Angeles. Here, she was named "Playmate of the Year" in June of 1993 and also landed various modeling contracts, including one with Guess Jeans.



The hottest case in which Stern represented Smith was the 1997 dispute over the estate of her late husband, billionaire J. Howard Marshall. Marshall had met Smith in 1991 while she was still a stripper at Grantedi's, and the two began a relationship. The couple married in Houston on June 27, 1994, but the fun was cut short when the 89-year-old Marshall died 13 months later in August of 1995.

Many critics claimed that Smith only married Marshall for his money and because he was not going to live for many more years. Within weeks of Marshall's death, his sons began a battle to hoard their father's $1.6 billion estate.

Smith was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1996 after a former employee sued her for sexual harassment for $850,000. When the bankruptcy court got involved, she was awarded $449,754,134. Then, in 2001, she was ordered to pay $1 million in legal fees to Marshall's sons, and she was awarded nothing. This disagreement between the bankruptcy and probate courts led to the case going to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.

Finally, in May of 2006, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Smith but did not award her any money. She was only granted the opportunity to pursue the case in the federal court.

Although Marshall verbally promised Smith half of his estate when he died, the case has gone on for more than a decade. Now that Smith is deceased, speculators predict that the case will continue in the name of Smith's daughter, Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern.

In 2002, Stern's law firm dissolved and he began a new venture as star of the E! reality TV show The Anna Nicole Show. The outrageous show portrays the everyday life of Smith, which frequently included her son, Daniel, and her good friends, Stern and Kim (Kimmie) Walther. The show was cancelled in 2004.

In 2003, Stern finished up his entertainment stint with the movie Wasabi Tuna, which is about a group of friends who kidnap Smith's real-life dog, Sugar-Pie, on Halloween. Smith, Stern, and Walther played themselves in the movie.

After the tragic death of Smith's 20-year-old son last September, rumors started spreading that Smith's newborn baby, Dannielynn, was, in fact, Stern's.

Throughout the years, many media members and critics have questioned whether the two were romantically involved. Smith claimed that she viewed Stern as a "brother" figure. However, shortly after Smith's daughter's birth, Stern told the public he was the father and that he intended to marry Smith.

The couple had a commitment ceremony on September 26, 2006, in the Bahamas, but no documentation supports the fact that they were married. The couple reportedly planned to stay out of the U.S. to avoid paternity testing to prove the identity of baby Dannielynn's father.

The recent mysterious death of Smith in Hollywood, FL, has prompted a series of men to claim they have fathered Dannielynn. Larry Birkhead, Smith's photographer ex-boyfriend; Zsa Zsa Gabor's husband, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt (who claims he had a decade-long affair with Smith); and former bodyguard Alexander Denk all claim to have fathered Smith's baby.

After a court ruling in early February, Stern was named guardian of Dannielynn, based on the fact that his name is on the birth certificate. Birkhead has filed papers asking a judge to order a paternity test.




University of California-Los Angeles

    

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