We hesitate to add to the Everest of words that has been devoted to the death of Anna Nicole Smith and the ensuing court battle over her remains, but we would be remiss in failing to note that a prominent South Florida elder law attorney has been a calm center of this legal tempest.
In mid-February, Judge Larry Seidlin of the Broward County Circuit Court appointed Miami attorney Richard C. Milstein guardian ad litem to Dannielynn Hope Marshall Stern, the five-month-old baby of the late Vickie Lynn Marshall, a.k.a. Anna Nicole Smith, the former Playboy Playmate and widow of billionaire J. Howard Marshall. Milstein has been a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys since 1989 and is a past chair of the Florida Bar's elder law section.
Soon after Milstein's appointment, a legal battle erupted among Ms. Smith's mother, an ex-boyfriend and a longtime companion over the disposition of Ms. Smith's remains. The mother, Virgie Arthur, wanted her daughter buried in the family plot in Texas and argued that Florida law gave her custody of her daughter's remains. Milstein, along with representatives of the companion, argued that Ms. Smith's wishes were to be buried in the Bahamas with her late son because she had purchased a burial plot next to his. After six days of hearings, Judge Seidlin tearfully ruled that Dannielynn was to be considered next of kin and gave custody of Ms. Smith's body to Milstein, who subsequently decided that Ms. Smith would be buried in the Bahamas. A Florida appeals court upheld the decision and Ms. Smith was interred there on Friday, March 2.
Milstein is a shareholder in the law firm of Akerman Senterfitt, which calls itself "Florida's largest law firm." Described as dapper and mild-mannered by South Florida's Daily Business Review, Milstein shunned the spotlight throughout the hearings. The Review characterized him as seeming "above the fray as the proceedings quickly degenerated into a circus-like atmosphere."
Those who know Milstein characterized him as the ideal advocate for the job.
"He is always the calm in the middle of many storms," said Milstein's friend Jorge Mursuli, the executive director of People for the American Way in Florida. "What a perfect choice amongst the circus to have someone so deeply committed to child-advocacy issues and not interested in self-serving press."
"Richard is a real gentleman," added fellow Miami elder law attorney and ElderLawAnswers member Leonard Mondschein. "He is thoughtful, caring and always tries to help. If he had been the judge in the Anna Nicole case, it would have been less of a spectacle. He was a great choice to represent Anna Nicole's child."
In addition to elder law, Milstein's practice focuses on trusts, estates, guardianship litigation and administration, family and marital law, alternative dispute resolution, children's rights, probate law and same sex couple planning. In its press release upon Milstein's appointment to represent Danielynn, his firm stated that Milstein has been "widely recognized and honored for his work as an attorney, including the Florida Supreme Court Tobias Simon Pro Bono Service Award, American Bar Association's John Minor Wisdom Professional and Public Service Award, and the Florida Bar President's Pro Bono Service Award For The Eleventh Judicial Circuit. In 1999, the Dade County Bar Association established The Richard C. Milstein Excellence Award, which is now presented each year to a recipient in the areas of professionalism and pro bono."
"We are all very proud of him," said Akerman Senior Communications Manager Dianne E. Weber.