McCourt battle may be headed to mediation
LOS ANGELES – In the trial that will decide ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the lawyers for Frank and Jamie McCourt have agreed to re-enter discussions about a possible settlement, Yahoo! Sports has learned, an outcome that presumably would allow Frank McCourt to continue as owner of the club.
The potential of returning to mediation – an attempt at settlement failed in August – was hatched between rival attorneys over a lunchtime break in the second-floor corridors of the Stanley Mosk Courthouse, and scheduled for later in the week. In August, Jamie requested a lump sum (believed to be for less than $100 million) and a percentage of the team’s future revenues. Frank rejected it.
Frank and Jamie will try again – likely on Friday – using the court system’s complex case mediation program.
On Tuesday, lawyers for both sides said they expect the trial to end next week. Judge Scott Gordon has 90 days to rule. Frank and Jamie could settle – Frank claims the Dodgers are his property, Jamie argues they are community property – any time before then.
Nearly a year since the McCourts announced their separation and more than three weeks since the beginning of the trial to determine ownership of the Dodgers, the case Tuesday centered on the Boston lawyer who authored the language, drafts and disputed final copies of the marital property agreement. Larry Silverstein of the law firm Bingham McCutchen testified Tuesday that after the agreement was signed and notarized he altered the contract in order to grant sole ownership of the Dodgers to Frank, based, he said, on the McCourts’ intentions. Silverstein said he “corrected the mistake” of typographical errors made during the compiling of the multi-page MPA, leaving the Dodgers to Frank and the couple’s real estate holdings to Jamie.
“I thought,” Silverstein said in his testimony, “it was a drafting error being cleared up.”
Later, he added, “I just miswrote it.”
After further questioning, Silverstein granted that the change in the community property agreement’s wording – the first made the Dodgers subject to community property, the second did not – was a substantive one. He said he did not, however, notify either Frank or Jamie of the draft’s original wording or that it had been edited, believing he had rectified an error.
“By failing to go to the clients with this innocent mistake, as he calls it,” Bruce Cooperman, one of Jamie’s attorneys, said, “he deprived both parties of the opportunity to clarify what they wanted.”
Dennis Wasser, also on Jamie’s team, said he would not characterize Silverstein’s actions as “sinister,” but that the lawyer had legal, moral and ethical obligations to notify both parties the agreement had been changed.
“I call it shenanigans,” Wasser said. “I don’t know if it’s an honest mistake. I don’t believe it’s a mistake.”
Victoria Cook, one of Frank’s attorneys, said Silverstein, after realizing the error, “Tried to do the right thing.”
Cook contended Silverstein had made a “drafting error,” and that upon realizing it, “Fixed it.”
The dispute lay at the center of the trial, whether the agreement was altered to illegally benefit Frank or if Jamie is taking advantage of a transcription error to claim half of the Dodgers. In the middle is Silverstein, who testified Tuesday morning and is scheduled to take the stand again Wednesday morning. He did not testify Tuesday afternoon because of a prior health issue, for which his doctor has restricted him to half-days.
“He cares a lot about the situation,” Cook said. “I don’t think he’s haunted by it, but I think he takes it very seriously.”