McCourt Divorce Trial, Day Eleven: It Ain't Over Till It's Over
Day Eleven. The Dodgers are 12 games out of first place.
There is a saying that in criminal law, you see the worst people at their best; while in divorce law, you see the best people at their worst.
That's why it's mostly a relief that the Dodger divorce trial is now over. After today's closing arguments, Judge Scott Gordon will have 90 days to decide the validity of the McCourts' marital property agreement.
If he throws the agreement out, that would give Jamie McCourt a claim to the Dodgers, which could force a sale of the team. If Gordon upholds the agreement, look forward to many, many more years of Frank McCourt ownership.
Arguing for Jamie this morning, Dennis Wasser took a "kitchen sink" approach -- reciting a long list of reasons why the agreement should be invalidated.
That agreement -- which purports to give Frank sole ownership of the Dodgers -- has taken a beating over the last three weeks, but Frank's lawyers maintain it can be salvaged.
While it would be foolish to predict what Gordon will do, there are a couple of reasons to feel optimistic if you are in the pro-Jamie (that is, the pro-sale) camp.
First, in his closing arguments Steve Susman, Frank's lead attorney, cut loose Larry Silverstein, the hapless attorney who drafted the agreement and was supposed to be one of Frank's strongest witnesses.
Susman came into the trial hoping to make Jamie's testimony -- and her lack of credibility -- the trial's central focus. But Silverstein stole the limelight by flipping and flopping, struggling to explain his Boner, and admitting to switching the agreement after it had been signed.
"Jamie's lawyers have attempted to focus attention on Larry's credibility rather than Jamie's," Susman complained in his closing argument. "That tactic has been fairly successful with the media, creating a 'Lynch Larry' mentality."
But Susman did not rely on Silverstein's testimony in his argument, effectively conceding that Silverstein had been a disaster. At one point, Gordon asked Susman a question about the drafting of the agreement. Susman sighed.
"You might have to believe Larry Silverstein," he said, drawing a laugh.
The second thing that should leave pro-Jamie observers feeling upbeat is that Susman and co-counsel Victoria Cook each ended their arguments by asking Judge Gordon to quickly schedule another trial to determine the ownership of the Dodgers if Gordon rules against Frank in this one.
Now, that's a strange note to end on. Generally, you'd like to conclude with the sheer conviction -- whether sincere or faked -- that you will win. But here were Susman and Cook declaring that if all their arguments in this trial fail for "technical, legal reasons," they could hold a one-day trial in the next couple of months that would give Frank the Dodgers.
Of course, Jamie's lawyers don't see it that way at all. They countered that such a trial -- called a "characterization" trial -- would take a year of preparation and as many as 60 days of court time, and that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that Frank would end up with the team.
But we're getting ahead of ourselves. If you're looking for bright spots for Frank, consider Cook's closing argument. Susman split the closings between himself, Cook, and Sorrell Trope, the 83-year-old dean of L.A. divorce lawyers. Cook landed some of the trial's sharpest blows to Jamie.
"What Jamie wanted was exactly what she got," Cook said. "Though she attempted to portray herself differently in court, the evidence is that she is intelligent and that she understand contracts... If a woman this highly educated, who is a lawyer, is not bound by a contract she signed, who would be?"
That was enough to make you think Cook should have cross-examined Jamie instead of Susman.
Even as the closing arguments were underway, there was fresh talk of a settlement. In the next week or two, the two sides will meet separately with Judge Peter Lichtman, who has been acting as a mediator.
Those talks haven't gone well so far, but at some point you have to figure that both sides will see reason and accept a deal. Otherwise, it could be a very long time before this is resolved, a very long time to watch Frank and Jamie at their worst.
Full McCourt coverage:
Week 1 Wrap-Up:
Even more McCourt:
L.A. Weekly cover story, Dodger Dog, from August
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