Irony Illuminates: E. Pierce Marshall Dead At 67 genre: Happy Remembrances & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation & Uncivil Unions

While this isn't the most newsworthy story, I think it speaks to a number of issues that seem to plague society and the human condition and provides a platform for discussion. Most readers may not recognize the name in the headline because this story is best known as the Anna Nicole Smith inheritance case. E. Pierce Marshall was the son of J. Howard Marshall II, the man who married Smith when he was 89 and she was a mere 26. E. Pierce Marshall has been battling Smith in court for over ten years with regards to his father's fortune. The Associated Press reports that Marshall died suddenly this past Tuesday at the age of 67 from the rapid onset of an aggressive infection.

From Wikipedia:

Within weeks after J. Howard's death on August 4, 1995, Smith squared off against his son, E. Pierce Marshall, for half of her late husband's $1.6 billion estate. Smith joined forces with J. Howard's other son, James Howard Marshall III, whom the elder Howard had disowned. Howard III claimed J. Howard verbally promised him a portion of his estate; like Smith, Howard III was also left out of J. Howard's will, which he updated weeks after their marriage. [1] The case has gone on for more than a decade, producing a highly publicized court battle in Texas and several judicial decisions that have gone both for and against Smith in that time.

Smith claimed J. Howard verbally promised her half of his estate if she married him. In September, 2000, a Los Angeles bankruptcy judge awarded Smith $449,754,134. Pierce appealed, and in July 2001, Houston judge Mike Wood vacated that award and ordered Anna Nicole to pay over $1 million in fees and expenses to Pierce's legal team. In March 2002, she was awarded $88 million. In December 2004, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the March 2002 decision, saying that Smith is not one of J. Howard Marshall's heirs. [2] The U.S. Supreme Court decided in September of 2005 to hear the appeal of that decision. The Bush Administration subsequently directed the Solicitor General to intercede on Smith's behalf out of an interest to protect federal court jurisdiction in state probate disputes.

After months of waiting, Anna Nicole and her step-son Pierce learned of the Supreme Court's decision on May 1, 2006. The justices unanimously decided in favor of Smith. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, stating that Smith should get a chance to pursue her claims in federal court.

This decision does not give Smith a portion of her husband's estate, it merely reaffirms that she has the right to fight for it in federal court. It is expected that the long-running legal drama will not end any time soon, because another trial to determine the legitimacy of her claims will need to begin, possibly followed by more appeals and delays.

I've watched the case for years with curiosity...but more with dismay at the intransigence exhibited by E. Pierce Marshall. Before you conclude that I am simply taking the side of Anna Nicole Smith, let me say that I have no doubt that she is an opportunist. Nonetheless, during the many years of costly legal wrangling, the estate of his father and her husband has remained in trust and has been inaccessible to either. At any point along the way the issue could have been reasonably resolved. Understanding why it wasn't is what I find so fascinating, so ironic, and so sad.

E. Pierce Marshall's family released the following statement with the announcement of his death:

“Mr. Marshall leaves behind a legacy of being, first and foremost, a remarkable husband, father and grandfather, a successful business visionary and a man of unrivaled perseverance and principle," the Margulies statement said.

Before I continue, let me acknowledge that I don't know any of the participants personally and I haven't read all of the related filings and documents. Regardless, I sometimes think we humans have a tendency to ignore the obvious because it allows us to avoid examining our own actions. I think this situation contains a number of elements that warrant exploration. In so doing, I also believe one can find significant irony as well as meaningful guidance.

Getting back to the family's statement, two things immediately caught my attention. One, there is no mention of Mr. Marshall being a "remarkable son" omission that, in my mind, says more than the remainder of the statement. Secondly, I interpret the portion that reads, "a man of unrivaled perseverance and principle" to be an attempt to justify the years of fighting for his father's fortune.

As I look at the broader picture, which includes the Wikipedia information that Smith was joined in her efforts to receive a portion of the elder Marshall's estate by Marshall's other son, James Howard Marshall III, who was previously disowned by his father, one thing stands out above all seems clear that money holds more value than love for all of these people.

First we have a father who has amassed a huge fortune and finds himself alone at 89, estranged from one son by choice, wielding his wealth to buy "love" from a woman that he barely knows. We have a 26 year old woman who is willing to offer "love" to a man she can have very little in common with in exchange for receiving the security she believes his wealth can bring. Their only connection they possess is having the same mentality with regard to the mechanics of love and relationships...they are bargains made from positions of power...whether that power exudes from a check book or a pair of large breasts squeezing from a tight dress it is one and the same.

As I deconstruct the situation it only gets worse. We have two sons vying for dads "love" previously disowned (cut off from the checkbook) and one subsequently betrayed when his father opens his checkbook to obtain the "love" he perceives can be found within the confines of a short skirt. Is it any wonder that E. Pierce Marshall spent over a decade battling the two individuals who he perceived were "love" interlopers?

Here we have the chosen son...a man who could likely cite the numerous "sacrifices" he made to remain "loved", feeling that these two people...a bad brother and a questionable wife...who did not endure the years of surrender that were required to demonstrate "love" and receive it in return...having positioned themselves to receive half of the senior Marshall's "legacy of love". Sadly, amongst the entire lot, I would venture that one couldn't find a scintilla of actual love...and yet if it is the only love you have ever known it breaks the heart nonetheless.

It has been my experience that these types of legacies are apt to be perpetuated from generation to generation as the construct of love remains the same. It is unfortunately the only love they know. In the end, the only thing that exceeds the irony of this situation is the reality that so many people can live so far removed from love and yet still be so assuredly heartbroken.

It also speaks to so much of what we see in society with regards to conflict and compromise. When society’s notion of love is a convolution of negotiations and bargains, love is not a feeling but an equation. When it becomes a calculation, it is subject to constant measure as we substitute quantification for commitment.

This is manifested over and over…in the amount of money and effort put into weddings, in the house a newlywed couple purchases, in the vacations they take, in the jobs they hold and the income they make, in the successes of the children they have in comparison to other couples children. A good wife has a good education, a good job, a prominent family. A good husband has an important title, influential friends, and a promising future.

The resulting impact of this dynamic is best viewed through the issue of gay marriage. Those opposed to gay marriage want love to be hierarchical…they want the love of a man for a woman to be granted status because they are unable to measure love otherwise. If the love between two men or two women is given equal standing, they feel their love is diminished…a tortured rationale of relativism that pervades the concepts of marriage and love and that likely explains the increasing failure rate of marriages.

Religion is treated much the same. It becomes a matter of negotiation and bargaining. People capitulate to a set of morals or values in exchange for the promise of an afterlife in an effort to overcome the terror of mortality. That is just the beginning. Once one chooses to participate in religion, the next objective is to assess the “rightness" of ones particular religion which of course culminates in more relative conclusions…such that one religion is better than another…which leads us to which religion has the “documents" to prove their superior status. At this point, the battle to determine how society should function becomes the preoccupation and there is a mad rush to assert “rightness".

So what do we have? We have individuals who are raised with a flawed vision of love that begin to focus on quantifiable relativism. They then take that construct of “lovability", which has been irreversibly tied to their sense of worth and identity, with them into future relationships and interactions with society…ever intent on obtaining the necessary markers to support ones “lovability" such that it is virtually impossible to redirect or extinguish the need for more accelerated and tangibly measurable reinforcement.

In direct conflict with the concept of actual love, whereby a portion of ones sense of self (narcissism if you will) is directed towards another human being, many people see marriage and all future interactions as opportunities to enhance ones “lovability" status by obtaining those things that are quantifiably synonymous with the definition of love. In other words the ego and the identity still need to be fed and will likely be that way forever…as opposed to being already evolved such that it is at maturation or satiation whereby it can offer “love" to another person or to society as a selfless and altruistic act.

From here, we see the motivations and the mechanisms that form the basis of the society’s “body politic"…which is ultimately the source from which an individual or a group of like-minded individuals can secure the means (power) to not only obtain additional identity reinforcement, but to direct and determine it consistent with ones particular set of hierarchical mores or measurements.

Again, in direct conflict with the concept of public service, whereby a portion of ones sense of self (narcissism) is directed towards the advancement and betterment of society, many people see public service (politics) as the next progressive opportunity to enhance status (lovability). With politics, as distinct from marriage, the individual is seeking to institutionalize ones status by legislating (proving) that those quantifiable things the individual has sought are in fact not only synonymous with their definitional constructs, but also with “rightness"…which therefore serves to reward and reinforce the validity of all previous and future efforts and actions.

The problems this creates in society and particularly with the prosecution of politics is an inability to compromise because doing so is equated with undermining the identity and the “rightness" of the beliefs that support any particular individual or group identity. As such, politics (public service) becomes a vehicle that is used for reinforcing individuals in concert with like minded individuals and is no longer premised upon providing for the greater good of the society as a whole because the greater good may not match the beliefs held by an individual politician and his supporting constituent voters.

Sadly, the Anna Nicole Smith case seems to be representative of the problems we see within the society as a whole. All too often the same misguided motivations, the same intransigence, and the same dissociation of real values from the behaviors that have become mere symbols of values are being witnessed in the individual, the society, and the body politic. E. Pierce Marshall will never receive the wealth of his father that he seemingly, though incorrectly, equated with love. He no longer has the opportunity to examine or alter his life. The rest of us humans still have the time necessary to determine that compromise need not mean that we are no longer worthwhile or whole. I simply hope we can find the strength to absorb that important realization.

Daniel DiRito | June 24, 2006 | 8:46 AM
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1 On August 31, 2007 at 5:58 AM, kanani wrote —

Wow. Excellent article. Out of curiosity, I googled Anna Nicole because I saw her baby's photo on a magazine today, and I thought it was sad.

Your article is very well and sensitively thought out. I think the situation you describe, with players seeing love as a quantifiable equation is right on the money.

You're right. How easy it would have been to settle with Anna Nicole immediately after the father died. I mean, what would have been 10 - 20 million to the son, given the extreme amount of money? And frankly, I think had it been plain pretty Polly, she might have done so, however, Anna Nicole at that time was surrounded by hanger-ons, who I think stayed around here even when she herself died.

The grand irony is, of course, that now all the major players are dead. The son, Anna Nicole and her son, too. Her baby is being treated like a pawn, even though she herself has no ties to J.Howard whatsoever.

2 On March 20, 2010 at 7:47 AM, Ryan Anderson wrote —

You clearly have never had a gold-digger make swipe at your father/grandfather's estate. It's not about the money; it's a matter of principle. It is infuriating to watch some bimbo show up in the ninth-hour and aggressively pursue the estate. Perhaps you're not a bleeding-heart fool, I don't know, but you surely don't speak from experience here.

3 On August 31, 2011 at 7:54 PM, Virginia McGeeAuthor Profile Page wrote —

I watched a Jane Mansfield movie last night. That led me to looking into her life. Color me surprised when I found that the actress Mariska Hargitay from Law and Order SVU was the daughter of actress Jayne Mansfield and actor/bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. Mariiska was about three when her mother died and she grew up with all the gossip from her mothers life no doubt. That got me to thinking of Anna Nichole Smith so I also did some looking up and found this article. This brought to mind the last time I visited my mother and sister. My sister and I went though the left overs of my Grandmother and Grandfather's lives. Things that the rest of the family didn't want. We are not rich people. When we came to something that both of us wanted each of us deferred to the other, not wanting to deprive each other of something that was wanted. In the end we set those things aside and we took turns picking things out of the pile later. I so agree with this article that what these people had was not love and feel sorry for them all. I would never have allowed my sister to be disinherited, or if she had been, I would have made sure after the fact that she received her share, blood is blood. As for Anna, well she was his wife for about 13 months. Why not give her a settlement. How much money do you think the lawyers made off of this? She had a sorry life though and in the end it wouldn't have made much difference. She's dead, her husband is dead, her son's dead and now her husbands son is dead too. Lol, I guess there are worse things then not having money. So the youngest son got nothing and Anna's daughter got nothing. I hope she grows up and turns out as well as Mariska Hargitay did and can live down the notoriety of her mothers life. Do you think that the more money you have the more you want and the less you want to share? I've heard that. If I were the widow of Marshall's son I would make a little trust for the little girl, to make sure she has enough to start out her life better then her mother did with a good education. Such a sad situation.

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