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Judge Begs for Recusal in 20-Year Anna Nicole Probate Case

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By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 31, 2017 12:59 PM

Poor Mike Wood. He never wanted to be known as 'the Anna Nicole Smith judge.' But that's exactly what he became after a dispute over the estate of Anna Nicole's late husband landed in his probate court -- a dispute that's lasted for 20 years and counting.

Now Wood is begging, literally begging, to be recused from the case.

The Long-Running Fight Over the Marshall Fortune

In case you've forgotten, Anna Nicole Smith was the 90s Playboy model turned Guess girl turned reality TV show train wreck. In 1994, Anna Nicole married J. Howard Marshall, an oil tycoon and billionaire. He was 89, she was 26. Marshall died a little over a year later, leaving both Smith and one of his sons, J. Howard Marshall III, out of his will and trust. Smith and Marshall's sons then began a protracted battle over his estate -- a battle that made it to the Supreme Court twice, in Marshall v. Marshall and Stern v. Marshall.

Anna Nicole Smith has since died, as has E. Pierce Marshall, the son who inherited the fortune. But the litigation? That's still going strong. And after so many years, Probate Judge Mike Wood just wants to move on.

In January, according to Law.com, the judge pleaded with lawyers to recuse him from the case. "I am going off the handle officially," he announced during a hearing. "I am tired of this case. I beg you to recuse me."

"I beg you to recuse me," he repeated. "I don't want to deal with you people anymore."

And that wasn't the end of it. Later in the same hearing, Wood began explaining once again just how much he hated this case:

I'm honestly -- I'm trying to get recused. Because I can't -- it is not fair to me, my staff, my life to have to deal with you people who do not want to resolve this case.

Wood Gets His Wish

Wood's pleas worked. During the hearing, lawyers for Elaine Marshall, who controls the trust J. Howard created, filed a handwritten motion to recuse Wood. Wood was off the case one week later.

"It's not that a big a deal. It's just that I wasn't accomplishing anything," he said. "And it got to the point that my irritation wasn't helping anything."

"I've resolved hundreds of estate disputes," Wood continued. "The fact that I couldn't resolve that case, I don't want my legacy to be: 'He couldn't resolve the Marshall case.' I resolved it many times."

The case is now before Probate Judge Christine Butts. We wish her all the luck.

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