Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 4:03 AM
In fact the only moment of reckoning for parties to the Dannielynn-paternity and Horizons-ownership matters will probably come when they have to fight their way through rabid media scrums to enter and leave The Bahamas Supreme Court. Because I suspect the legal jousting and posturing (amongst judges, lawyers and litigants) that have prolonged these matters thus far will conspire to extend them further still. And this, notwithstanding the fact that paternity and ownership, respectively, could easily have been resolved months before Anna Nicole died if our Bahamian judges had the temperament to exercise their authority more judiciously and decisively.
Recall that Larry Birkhead’s attorney’s filed papers in the Bahamian court months ago – seeking enforcement of an order from a California court for Anna Nicole to provide DNA saliva samples from herself and daughter Dannielynn. And, had presiding Judge Stephen Isaacs accorded this order pro forma comity under international law, paternity would have been established within weeks of securing the simply saliva swabs requested. But let me hasten to clarify that he should have done so not to genuflect to the California court; but rather to honour the letter and spirit of Bahamian law.
After all, Chapter 130 on the Status of Children provides, in part, that:
Where circumstances exist that give rise to presumptions of paternity in respect of more than one father, no presumption shall be made as to paternity.
This means that even though Howard K. Stern is presumed to be the father – because he is allegedly designated as such on her birth certificate and cohabited with Anna Nicole for a statutorily-required period of time before her birth – that presumption was rendered moot by Birkhead’s application concerning this child’s paternity. And, even Stern’s lawyers would have to concede that Birkhead’s lawyers have presented enough circumstantial evidence in court to sustain a rebuttable case against Stern’s claim that he is Anna Nicole’s baby Daddy.
Therefore, Judge Isaacs had the authority (and duty) to order “blood tests” (or more advanced and less invasive DNA tests pursuant to the California order) to settle paternity. And had he done so, he would have furthered the best interest of the child.
As it stands, this honourable Judge is enabling, albeit unwittingly, Stern’s (and Anna Nicole’s now posthumous) scheme to perpetrate a fraud not only on our Court – by using it to shield his mercenary reasons for claiming paternity, but also against Birkhead (assuming he is the biological father) – by denying him the experience of sharing in the most precious moments of his daughter’s life. Therefore, I entreat Judge Isaacs to seize this opportunity to redeem Bahamian jurisprudence by ordering DNA tests today to finally establish paternity, without further ado.
(Then, of course, he can hear the more interesting matter concerning who gets custody of Dannielynn. And, notwithstanding cultural biases and legal precedents that favor mothers and grandmothers in custody cases, I submit that, under these circumstances, if Birkhead were found to be the father, it would be in the best interest of the child to award him, not Anna Nicole’s estranged mother, Vergie Arthur, legal custody.)
Meanwhile, I am loath to bore you with too much commentary on the even more farcical Horizons dispute – between a squatting Stern and American real estate mogul G. Ben Thompson – over who is the legal and beneficial owner of this Bahamian property. Therefore I shall suffice to note that this case should also have been resolved months ago, and with even greater dispatch than the paternity case. In fact, but for the alleged machinations of a seemingly star-struck and pussy-whipped Bahamian minister of immigration (see Related Articles below), it would (and should) never have become a legal matter at all.
For the record, this dispute arises from the fact Anna Nicole took possession of Horizons to secure her permanent residency, but failed to honor contract terms to establish ownership. But her residency should never have been granted until she presented legal documents to prove that she had invested in real estate as required by law. And, under those circumstances, she would have been forced to resolve this matter to maintain her fugitive refuge from that California court order.
Alas, once residency was granted, she had neither the incentive to honor her contractual obligations nor the compulsion to comply with the order. And so she squatted.
Nevertheless, since Mr Thompson is the purported title holder (and no other ownership interest has been registered that supersedes his), the Judge presiding over this case should have granted his application to evict freeloading Stern and Anna Nicole long before she died. Therefore, it would amount to an egregious perversion of justice if she fails to issue a decisive ruling on this matter today – given that the parties are bound to have all documents necessary to support their respective claims available for consideration.
Accordingly, I hope the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of The Bahamas make us proud by doing the right (and just) thing, despite the fanfare.
NOTE: I imagine a few enquiring minds would like to know what has or will become of Anna Nicole’s alleged Last Will and Testament, which Stern presented in evidence in the Florida court to assert his authority – as executor – to have her buried in Nassau. Well, here’s a hint: Whatever its validity and provisions, it will never be probated in The Bahamas….
However, the more juicy gossip pertains to the pending inquest into the death of Anna Nicole’s son in Nassau and the investigation into her own death in Florida. Because, in both cases, the umbrella of suspicion appears to be hovering over the head of Howard K. Stern – due to his alleged role in procuring and administering the cocktail of drugs that caused their respective deaths. Clearly, he’s got “some splainin” to do.
* Version of my syndicated column published yesterday, 16 March, by CNN.