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Twenty years. Five times the length of the human relationship. Almost twenty times the length of the marriage. That’s the duration of the litigation about whether Anna Nicole Smith should share in the estate of her husband J. Howard Marshall II. The parties are long dead—J. Howard’s death at age 90 in 1995 gave rise to the estate and litigation over it; Anna Nicole died of a drug overdose at 39 in 2007; and J. Howard’s son (and Anna Nicole’s nemesis), Pierce Marshall, died at age 67 in 2006. Yet the litigation waged seven years after all the parties were dead, and it came to an end just this past month. As the federal district court that issued the last ruling wrote, quoting Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, “it is time for this suit to no longer ‘drag its weary length before the Court.”

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