Court rules that Smith's body cannot be moved
EmptyWEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A Florida appeals court issued a stay Monday in the dispute over Anna Nicole Smith's body, ruling that her remains cannot be moved to the Bahamas until the judges hear a challenge from the starlet's estranged mother.
The Florida 4th District Court of Appeal agreed to hear Virgie Arthur's request to overturn a trial judge's decision giving control of Smith's body to the attorney for the centerfold's infant daughter. That attorney decided she should be buried next to her son in the Bahamas.
Arthur has been seeking to bury her daughter in her native Texas.
The court gave other attorneys in the case until 2 p.m. Tuesday to respond to the challenge.
Earlier Monday, Judge Larry Seidlin rejected Arthur request to reconsider last week's ruling, saying he wanted to preserve Smith's dignity by having the funeral as soon as possible. Seidlin declined to speak to reporters.
Smith died in a Florida hotel Feb. 8 at age 39. A medical examiner has yet to determine her cause of death.
Arthur's lawyer, Roberta G. Mandel, wrote in the appeal that Seidlin's ruling was an inconvenience because the mother would need a passport and airline tickets to visit Smith's grave.
Outside court, Mandel said Arthur was willing to take the fight to the state Supreme Court, if necessary.
"This mother is a mother who deserves the right to bury her child," Mandel said. "The trial court treated her as though she was nothing."
Ron Rale, an attorney for Smith's boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, said Arthur should honor her daughter's wishes to be laid to rest in the Bahamas.
"I believe the testimony was clear where Anna Nicole wanted to be buried, and anything that obstructs that, to complete her wishes as soon as possible, is sad," Rale said.
Milstein, the court-appointed attorney for Smith's 5-month-old daughter, Dannielynn, did not immediately return a phone message, and neither did the public relations firm representing him. He said Saturday that the funeral would not take place before Tuesday.
In the Bahamas, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Isaacs dealt only with procedural matters at a private hearing Monday to determine Dannielynn's guardianship, said Wayne Munroe, an attorney for Smith's estate there.
Isaacs scheduled the next hearing for March between Arthur and Stern, who is listed as the father on the birth certificate. The judge has barred Stern from taking the girl out of the Bahamas until a custody ruling.
Stern and two other men claim they are Dannielynn's father. Los Angeles-based photographer Larry Birkhead wants a Fort Lauderdale court to enforce a California judge's orders so he can get DNA samples from Smith's body and the baby. Frederic von Anhalt, the husband of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, also says he may be the father.
Smith married Texas oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall II in 1994 when he was 89 and she was 26. The reality TV star and Playboy Playmate had been fighting his family over his estimated $500 million fortune since his death in 1995.