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The contentious divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt opened in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Monday with lawyers for each side accusing the other of engaging in bad faith. Control of the Los Angeles Dodgers could rest on the outcome. “Frank and his lawyers have deceived Jamie, her lawyers and this court,” said Dennis Wasser of Wasser, Cooperman & Carter in Los Angeles, representing Jamie McCourt. He quoted Sir Walter Scott’s poem, Marmion: “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.” Stephen Susman, a partner at Houston’s Susman Godfrey who represents Frank McCourt, countered that former family law attorney Jamie McCourt was attempting to become “the first successful spouse to invalidate an agreement that she proposed” and the “first divorce lawyer to claim she did not understand her own post-nuptial agreement.” The trial could hinge on the point. Jamie McCourt is attempting to invalidate the marital property agreement the couple signed in 2004, one year after they purchased the National League franchise. The proceedings are expected to last through September and to also highlight the attorneys who advised the couple about the agreement. Attorneys for the parties hauled more than 20 boxes of documents and dozens more binders of exhibits into a packed courtroom where Los Angeles County, Calif., Superior Court Judge Scott M. Gordon is presiding over the case. Wasser led a team of five attorneys on behalf of Jamie McCourt; six lawyers appeared for Frank McCourt. Gordon has ordered Frank McCourt to pay his wife more than $225,000 in temporary monthly spousal support. Both sides agreed that the couple, who married in 1979, signed six original copies of the contested agreement. Jamie McCourt signed all six copies in Boston, while Frank McCourt signed three in Boston and three in Los Angeles. Wasser contended that there were two versions of the same agreement, thus nullifying the deal. In one version, referred to as the “California version,” the Dodgers were not designated as Frank McCourt’s separate property in an attached exhibit; the couple’s attorney, Lawrence Silverstein, a partner in the Boston office of Bingham McCutchen, quickly replaced the exhibit hours before the documents were signed, he said. Jamie McCourt was never informed about the last-minute change, which Wasser referred to in court as a “bombshell” that forensic examiners just discovered in the case. “Pretty big material difference: One includes the Dodgers, one excludes the Dodgers,” Wasser said. In a letter, Bingham McCutchen acknowledged that the switch occurred and that the “California version” of the agreement had “disappeared,” Wasser said. “Frank and his lawyers have represented to Jamie, us and you that the California version and Massachusetts version were the same, and they weren’t,” he said. In response, Susman argued that Silverstein, in producing copies of the “California version,” accidentally used an earlier draft that contained the erroneous exhibit. It wasn’t until he provided Frank McCourt with the three copies in California several weeks later that he discovered the “insignificant and innocuous” mistake and quickly corrected it. “Jamie is seeking to twist a simple drafting error…into some massive fraud,” Susman said. In taped testimony played in court by Jamie McCourt’s legal team, Silverstein didn’t recall making the switch. Another Bingham lawyer who has represented Frank McCourt on issues related to the Dodgers, Marshall Grossman, was present in the courtroom. If the judge agrees that the Massachusetts version of the marital property agreement is the correct one, there are several reasons why it still should be found invalid, Wasser said. For one thing, the agreement was the product of “undue influence,” since Silverstein, who knew little to nothing about California community property laws, drafted the deal to significantly favor Frank McCourt, even though he represented both parties at that time. For another, the purpose of the agreement was to protect the couple’s residences from business creditors, not divide their assets in the event of a divorce. Leah Bishop, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Loeb & Loeb who represented the couple in their estate planning matters, will testify that Frank McCourt told her in 2008 to “fix the agreement” after the couple realized how it would be interpreted under California community property laws, he said. “Is Leah Bishop lying? Why would she lie?” Wasser said. “She’s the only one with no axe to grind.” Wasser added that Frank McCourt breached his fiduciary duties to his wife by attempting to enforce the agreement after Bishop told him about the mistake. Susman questioned Jamie McCourt’s claims that she didn’t understand the full effect of the agreement. He noted that she holds a law degree from the University of Maryland School of Law and has served as general counsel of The McCourt Co. and chief executive officer of the Dodgers. “To say she didn’t know California was a community property state is incredible,” he said. He posited an alternative theory: That “lawyer Jamie” suggested drafting the agreement to protect her “nest egg” from her husband’s business creditors, especially after his highly leveraged purchase of the ailing Dodgers for $421 million. By 2003, she had acquired seven additional homes worth $68 million, he said. “Frank could’ve been upside down in a second,” he said. Susman introduced a March 22 cover letter confirming that the couple intended to divide their property as outlined in the Massachusetts version of the agreement, which states in “clear and unambiguous” language that the Dodgers are “Frank’s separate property.” Jamie McCourt received the cover letter several times, he said. He said that he expects to call Reynolds Cafferata, a former partner in the Los Angeles office of Bingham McCutchen, to testify about how he advised Jamie McCourt about California community property laws. Cafferata is now a partner at Los Angeles-based Rodriguez, Horii, Choi & Cafferata. Susman said that Frank McCourt and Silverstein would testify about their consultations with Jamie McCourt. Among the issues they discussed was whether Jamie McCourt should retain separate counsel before signing the agreement, to which she replied: “We don’t need any more lawyers,” he said. “That’s more than a little ironic,” Susman said, given “where we are today.” Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].

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