X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
It’s too bad there’s no instant replay in real life. Then we’d know what actually happened when Frank and Jamie McCourt signed a now-infamous property agreement in 2004, as they prepared to move from Massachusetts to California, where their team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, plays baseball. As you surely recall from the headlines (including ours) that have resulted from the McCourts’ extremely nasty divorce and custody battle for ownership of the Dodgers, there are six versions of the crucial agreement. Three versions contain exhibits granting sole ownership of the Dodgers to Frank. Three other versions preserve Jamie’s rights to the team and its related assets. In an 11-day November trial to determine the validity of the agreement, Frank McCourt’s legal team, which includes Susman Godfrey’s Stephen Susman and L.A. divorce lawyer Sorrell Trope of Trope and Trope, maintained that the discrepancies in the documents were due to a “drafting error” by the couple’s then-lawyer, Lawrence Silverman of Bingham McCutchen, and that both Frank and Jamie McCourt intended to preserve Frank’s sole ownership of the baseball team. But Jamie and her army of lawyers from Boies, Schiller & Flexner; Wasser, Cooerman & Carter; and Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert accused Silverstein and Frank McCourt of purposefully altering the agreement after Jamie signed it in order to give Frank sole control of the Dodgers assets. On Tuesday, Los Angeles superior court judge Scott Gordon decided to toss the property agreement entirely. In a 100-page statement of decision, he concluded the agreement is invalid because “there was no mutual assent or meeting of the minds” between the McCourts when they signed the deal. The judge did throw Frank McCourt and his Bingham lawyer a bone, concluding that they did not exert “undue influence” on Jamie to execute the agreement. He also rejected Jamie’s lawyers’ contention that the agreement was invalid due to “constructive fraud.” So what does it all mean for the Dodgers? We asked both sides, and not surprisingly, we got very different answers. (Lead trial counsel for Jamie McCourt, David Boies of Boies Schiller and Dennis Wasser of Wasser Cooerman, were unavailable Tuesday. So were Frank McCourt’s lead lawyers, Trope and Susman.) Jamie’s legal team is very confident: Judge Gordon’s ruling, her lawyers told us, means she’s co-owner of the Dodgers. “The McCourts are now to be treated like any other couple in California that files for divorce, which means they are subject to the presumption of equality of community property under California law,” said Michael Kump of Kinsella Weitzman. “From Day One, the only grounds that Frank has ever asserted for why he’s the sole owner of the Dodgers was the marital property agreement.” Another of Jamie’s lawyers, James Miller of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, told us the bottom line is that the Dodgers (and related assets, including Dodger Stadium) are now presumptively the McCourts’ equal property. “Either Frank has to buy Jamie out, she has to buy him out, or they have to sell the team,” Miller said. “But [Frank McCourt is] an alley fighter, and one never knows what somebody will do when their back is to the wall like his is.” According to his lawyers, Frank has already decided exactly what he’s going to do. Marc Seltzer and Victoria Cook of Susman Godfrey told us that they’re seeking a new trial on ownership of the Dodgers assets under California law. They assert that when a spouse acquires property, it’s assumed to be separate property under California law. And because Frank holds legal title to the Dodgers assets, Seltzer said, they are his alone. If that argument doesn’t convince the court, the Susman Godfrey lawyers said, they have another theory of ownership ready to deploy: Because Frank acquired the Dodgers through a business that he owned independently prior to his marriage with Jamie, the team should remain solely in his name, they said. “[Judge Gordon's] decision is kind of a way station on the way to the next round of litigation,” Seltzer said. And what about Jamie’s lawyers’ contention that the Dodgers assets are presumed to be community property now that the marital property agreement has been tossed? “The California appellate courts have said that the titling presumption trumps the community property presumption,” Cook told us. Bingham partner Silverstein, who drafted the agreement at the heart of Judge Gordon’s ruling, declined to comment when we called his firm Tuesday.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.