A hearing in a lawsuit brought by a man who claims he fathered Anna Nicole Smith's baby girl was delayed Wednesday but his lawyer urged the former Playboy playmate to return the baby to California for DNA paternity testing.
"Where's this woman's decency? Where's her fairness?" attorney Debra Opri said outside the courthouse. "Can Anna Nicole Smith not allow Larry Birkhead the peace of mind in resolving the question of whether he is the father?"
"If you are so certain that Larry Birkhead is not the father, then you have nothing, absolutely nothing to lose. ... It is in the best interests of this child," Opri said.
Smith's lawyer and boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, says he is the father of Dannie Lynn Hope, born by Caesarean section on Sept. 7 in the Bahamas. Smith and Stern have exchanged informal vows and say they plan to officially wed.
But Birkhead, who is Smith's ex-boyfriend, contends he is the father and filed a lawsuit demanding that Smith and the child come to California to establish paternity through DNA tests. If he is confirmed to be the father, he could receive visitation or custody rights and possibly a large amount of child support.
Birkhead, a trim man with blond surfer hair, said nothing Wednesday but his lawyer said Smith has challenged the jurisdiction of the California court and whether she was properly served with the lawsuit.
Superior Court Commissioner Gretchen W. Taylor called attorneys for both sides into her chambers and 30 minutes later they left without discussing anything in open court. Outside court, Opri said the judge continued the hearing to Oct. 26.
Smith, 38, remains in the Bahamas. Three days after Dannie was born, her 20-year-old son, Daniel Smith, died of an accidental lethal combination of methadone and two antidepressants, according to a private autopsy.
Outside court, Opri compared Daniel's death to her client's custody position.
"Anna Nicole Smith knows what it is to be a parent, to love a child and to lose that child. Anna knows what it is to be told, 'You will never see your child again,'" Opri said. "But Anna Nicole Smith has now taken Larry Birkhead's child away from him. Anna has told him he will never see his child again."
She refused to take any questions about the nature of Birkhead's relationship with Smith or provide other details of the case except to say that Smith still maintains a home in the Studio City section of Los Angeles.
Lawyers for Smith and Stern also declined to provide specifics, saying paternity proceedings are confidential under California law in order to protect the interests of the child.
"We want to honor the dignity of the court, the dignity of Anna Nicole as the mother," Smith attorney Ron Rale said. "She's grieving right now, it's not something that we want before the press."
"The truth will be known whenever it's to be known. Justice will be served," Rale said.
He indicated Smith did not want to return to California to fight the case in person.
"Anna Nicole, I will tell you, is mourning. She's grieving," he said. "She lost her son, she's had a baby.... She's obviously in a bad condition and here we are appearing in court. So it's not a good time for Anna Nicole."