Thursday, September 23, 2010
Updated: September 24, 2:56 PM ET
McCourt judge grills post-nup lawyer
By Molly Knight
ESPN The Magazine
LOS ANGELES -- The judge who will determine whether to uphold the post-nuptial agreement that gives Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers had tough questions on Thursday for the embattled lawyer who drafted it.
Judge Scott Gordon interrupted Frank McCourt's attorney, Victoria Cook, several times to ask Larry Silverstein to explain what happened to the three copies of the contract that were signed by McCourt in California that excluded the team from his separate property.
"You took out some pages, right?" Gordon asked.
"I don't recall doing that, but that's what my file indicates," Silverstein answered.
"The three pages you took out, do you know what you did with them?" Gordon asked.
"I don't recall," Silverstein said.
The McCourts are fighting over ownership of the team, the stadium and the surrounding land, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Silverstein testified Wednesday that when he replaced the schedule that excluded the Dodgers from Frank McCourt's separate property with a schedule that gave him sole control of the team, he believed he was correcting a typo. Attorneys for Jamie McCourt argue that Mr. Silverstein's actions were unethical because neither party was informed of the switch.
In a riveting moment, Gordon pointed at Jamie McCourt and asked:
"Did the lady there ever tell you that you could change out the exhibits?"
"No," Silverstein answered.
Gordon then pointed at Frank McCourt:
"Did the gentleman over there tell you that you could change out the exhibits?"
"No," Silverstein answered.
Jamie McCourt's legal team claimed her husband and Silverstein engaged in fraud by making the correction without telling their client.
When asked by one of Frank McCourt's attorneys if he committed fraud, Silverstein responded, "Absolutely not." Frank McCourt also denied the claim during his testimony earlier this month.
Frank McCourt's legal team does not deny that two copies of the marital property agreement exist, but it argues the couple intended on a contract that gave Frank the businesses -- including the team -- and Jamie the homes.
"Do you believe that Jamie understood the implications of the MPA?" Cook asked Silverstein.
"Absolutely," he said.
Later, Cook asked Silverstein if Jamie McCourt indicated she wanted an interest in the Dodgers.
"No, she didn't," Silverstein said. "She wasn't willing to take on that risk."
Silverstein was excused from the stand, and, with that, Jamie McCourt's lawyers rested their case.
The sides are expected to go into mediation behind closed doors Friday, but a source who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of a potential settlement said the two sides remain as far apart as they did when the trial began.
According to materials provided by the Los Angeles Superior Court, the mediator, Judge Peter Lichtman, will make "no decision or findings about the facts of the case and make no award. Rather, [he] helps facilitate a discussion in which parties reach a mutually agreed upon settlement." One of the primary goals of mediation is "enhancing the future relationship of the parties involved in the dispute, so the process is less adversarial and formal than either litigation or arbitration."
According to multiple sources on both sides, should the McCourts close in on a settlement Friday they will return to court to continue talks Saturday. If they finish tomorrow's talks without getting any closer, they will likely forego a Saturday session and return to trial Monday.
Attorneys for Jamie McCourt called four witnesses to the stand -- the couple's estate planning attorney Leah Bishop, Frank McCourt, Jamie McCourt, and Silverstein -- before resting their case yesterday. Frank McCourt's lawyers will now have a chance to call their witnesses. They were able to question Reynolds Cafferata -- an attorney who worked for the Los Angeles office of Bingham McCutchen and who advised Silverstein on issues related to drafting the marital property agreement in 2004 -- briefly this week when he was called to the stand out of turn when Silverstein fell ill.
Frank McCourt's legal team is set to call its first official witness, Dodgers chief financial officer Peter Wilhelm, if trial resumes on Monday.
Molly Knight is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.