The McCourt divorce trial opened Monday morning with a limited victory for Jamie McCourt.
The whole trial will revolve around a “marital property agreement,” or MPA, which purports to divide the couple's assets. One version of the MPA — signed in Massachusetts — gives the Dodgers to Frank.
Here is the Exhibit A from that agreement, which clearly includes the Dodgers among Frank's separate property.
The other, which Jamie signed in Massachusetts and Frank signed in California, excludes the Dodgers from Exhibit A.
Frank's lawyers are arguing that the California version is a mistake, and that the Massachusetts version is the correct version.
Jamie's lawyers have argued that Frank's lawyers should be prevented from putting on evidence showing that the California MPA is a mistake. All that should matter, they contend, is the plain text of the documents.
And since the documents are so radically different, they argue both should be invalid.
In his first ruling on Monday morning, Judge Scott Gordon sided with Jamie's lawyers, finding that all “extrinsic” evidence relating to any agreement should be excluded.
In theory, that could blow a big hole in Frank's case. But Gordon limited his exclusion, saying that Frank's attorneys could still introduce evidence that makes his point, providing they demonstrate its relevance beforehand.
In arguments, Frank's lead lawyer, Steve Susman, was allowed to go ahead and argue that the California MPA is erroneous. So it's not clear how much practical effect the judge's ruling will end up having.
But it's clear that Jamie's lawyers have been handed an objection they can raise every time Susman tries to introduce something they don't like.
Otherwise, Gordon issued a couple other rulings limiting discussion of the present value of the Dodgers and forbidding one of Jamie's experts from testifying about Massachusetts law. Those rulings appear to be comparatively minor, designed mostly to speed the trial along.
The morning was occupied almost entirely with arguments from Dennis Wasser, Jamie's lead divorce lawyer, and Susman. Each recapped arguments they have already made in their briefs.
From those arguments, it's clear that the most important witness in the trial will be Jamie. For her side, her testimony will be essential in demonstrating that she never intended to knowingly sign away her interest in the Dodgers.
Susman seems to be drooling at the chance to destroy her credibility on cross-examination.
That opportunity won't come for a while, as Jamie's first witness will be Leah Bishop, the estate lawyer that Frank and Jamie consulted in 2008. Bishop is probably Jamie's strongest witness, so it makes sense to lead off with her.
From Frank's side, the key witness will likely be Larry Silverstein, the Massachusetts lawyer who drafted the various versions of the MPA. Wasser & Co. intend to make him look like A) a fool and/or B) a devious co-conspirator with Frank in a scheme to wrest control of the Dodgers from Jamie.
Can he be both? It's hard to see how, but with superlawyer David Boies on board, anything is possible.
Full McCourt coverage:
Week 1 Wrap-Up:
Even more McCourt:
L.A. Weekly cover story, Dodger Dog, from August