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San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds strutted out of the California Supreme Court Monday with a smile on his face after it appeared from the questioning that the justices might reinstate his much-publicized prenuptial agreement with ex-wife Sun Bonds. In Marriage of Bonds, S079760, the justices appeared unready to adopt a “strict scrutiny” standard for review of prenuptual agreements that one party signs without the assistance of counsel. But the court did hint that it may draw some guidelines of its own in respect to premarriage contracts. Although Chief Justice Ronald George, along with Justices Joyce Kennard and Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, agreed that the facts surrounding Barry Bonds’ presentation of an eleventh-hour prenup to fianc�e Sun Bonds were “troubling,” the justices didn’t seem to endorse the First District Court of Appeal’s approach. In a 2-1 decision, the panel had said Sun’s lack of representation and other factors suggested she was coerced into signing a prenup in 1987 that, if it holds up in court, would likely deprive her of millions of Barry’s earnings before their 1994 divorce. Kennard asked Barry’s appellate lawyer, Berkeley, Calif.’s Richard Sherman, if the First District majority was correct when it said that the absence of legal representation is a factor that should be given great weight by the trial court. “It certainly is a factor to be considered, is it not?” she asked. The DeGoff and Sherman partner responded that the court of appeal, by introducing the strict scrutiny rule, changed the burden-of-proof requirements in prenuptial contracts. “Issues of substantive fairness are not the issues the court is supposed to look at,” he said. “It might not have been smart for Sun to sign the contract, but it wasn’t illegal,” added Sherman. Paige Wickland, Sun’s appellate attorney, tried to convince the justices that a host of factors — including Sun’s lack of counsel, or that she even knew she needed counsel — proved that the prenup was not signed voluntarily. “I thought ignorance of the law is no excuse?” Justice Marvin Baxter asked Wickland. Kennard went further, saying a “strict scrutiny” standard would fly in the face of the Uniform Premarital Agreement Act, which California adopted in 1985. “I think you would have a tough time proving that this premarital agreement is invalid,” Kennard told Wickland, of San Francisco’s Fancher & Wickland. Still, the justices did seem to feel that some guidelines were needed to address the problems in Bonds. While Barry had the help of a couple of lawyers and investment advisors, Sun had no one at her side but a Swedish friend when she signed away her rights to Barry’s earnings. “Could there be an intermediate standard?” Werdegar asked Sherman.

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