WITH an oil fortune on the line, former stripper Anna Nicole Smith encountered a sympathetic audience at the US Supreme Court yesterday.
America's most senior judges have been drawn into a family feud over the fortune of Smith's late husband, J Howard Marshall II, once estimated at as much as $1.6 billion.
Smith married the oil tycoon in 1994 when he was 89 and she was a 26-year-old model known for Guess and Playboy magazines. He died the following year.
Mr Marshall had showered Smith with $6.6 million in gifts that included two homes, $2.8 million in jewellery and $700,000 in clothes, and she contends that he also promised her half his estate.
His son, Pierce, said various wills and trusts his father prepared over the years made him the only heir.
Smith was initially awarded $474 million from the estate by a federal bankruptcy judge. That was later reduced and was then thrown out altogether.
Yesterday, the high court was hearing arguments in the case, and the eventual ruling will determine if Smith gets another chance at part of Mr Marshall's estate.
Smith's claim is simple, said Justice David Souter, "just give me the money I would have had".
The justices repeatedly referred to the amount of money at stake, and criticised arguments that only a Texas court had jurisdiction to settle the family feud.
"That's just not the way our system works," said Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the only woman justice.
The case continues.