Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Anna Nicole Goes to Law School

It's all over the blogosphere now: various law profs across the country are discussing Anna Nicole Smith's will in their classes, as a way of making the law more accessible, or at least more interesting in this age of pop culture. Her early death and poorly drafted will--and the ensuing legal battles over her young daughter and her burial--make this a case of truth truly being stranger than fiction.

You can start your own legal research of the subject with this AP article (reissued via MSNBC.com) and with blog posts on TaxProf Blog and Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog. And don't forget this March 8 article from the Phoenix New Times, which reports that Smith may have had a secret love child in 2001. (A more concise, and less melodramatic, report appeared on March 12 in the New Zealand Herald.) How does that play into the mix?

Note that the media coverage of this law school trend seems positive. Should it be? Is this truly a case of making the law "come alive" through current events? (No decedent jokes, please.) Should her case be discussed in law school classes because students with computers are reading about it online anyway, instead of taking notes? Or is the fact that Smith's case is being discussed in law school classes somehow being used to legitimize the media frenzy surrounding her death?

I don't know, but I suspect some of you have opinions about it--please share them here.


Anonymous said...

The only reason the media cover this non-story is that they don't realize that Wills & Trusts has always been about little else but the tax and mistress problems of rich white guys.

The more interesting fight for a W&T class is where the Salvation Army is trying to screw Greenpeace International out of a big chunk of change for having the temerity to change its name slightly--clearly voiding the gift (and resulting in a 1/8th larger share for SA)! It's convinced me never to give anything to a bell-ringer again, but it's still a much more relevant case for most law students than anything having to do with silicone strippers who marry bazillionaires. That's not actually all that common, even in Texas.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great way of teaching law. Many times the cases seem so old and out of touch that something currently happening remings the student that the study of law is actually alive and changing daily.
And, sadly enough, I must admit that this case has been so much more interesting than some classes that I have been "studying" it online at the celebrity blogs instead of paying attention.

Gregory W. Bowman said...

Anonymous 5:06--your comment about rich white guys is buttressed by the 3/14/07 report in the Times about the divorce of billionaire Roman Abromovich. Abromovich, who is worth 11 billion sterling (about US$20 billion), is apparently now dating Marat Safin's very pretty ex-girlfriend, Daria Zhukova. The story appears online here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/europe/article1512644.ece.

Anonymous 2:39--Very good point. Just make sure you don't websurf in my class.

Law Vibe said...

Whatever makes it more interesting, definitely makes sense from a student's point of view. Makes it seem more applicable to real life instead of just abstract ideas.

Anonymous said...

I was sick of hearing about Anna Nicole's death two minutes after discovering every news channel was making it their breaking news story, and continued to do so for weeks, despite other (better?) news stories coming out of the woodworks every day. So, no, I would not appreciate hearing even more about something I could care less about while I'm at law school, unless the lecture was entitled "How Not to Properly Prepare your Will" in which we could look at the current Smith will problems, and then look back at her late billionaire husband's will, and the fiasco surrounding his death.