A look at where McCourt case stands be­fore clos­ing ar­gu­ments

Ques­tions are an­swered about agree­ment in­volv­ing Dodgers own­er­ship at the cen­ter of the case and what hap­pens af­ter trial ends.

Los Angeles Times - - Morning Briefing - Bill Shaikin bill.shaikin@latimes.com

Af­ter 10 days in court and 10 wit­nesses pro­vid­ing tes­ti­mony, the divorce trial be­tween Frank and Jamie McCourt con­cludes Wed­nes­day.

The clos­ing ar­gu­ments should re­turn the fo­cus to whether Frank has a valid agree­ment that awards him sole own­er­ship of the Dodgers or whether the team should be con­sid­ered com­mu­nity prop­erty.

Here are some ques­tions and an­swers that sum­ma­rize where the case stands:

How can there be a valid agree­ment if there are two ver­sions of it, one that says the Dodgers are his and his alone and an­other that says Frank and Jamie share own­er­ship?

Frank says the lat­ter ver­sion is a mis­take, awk­wardly but ac­cu­rately cor­rected when the lawyer that drafted the agree­ment sub­sti­tuted one page for an­other — af­ter the McCourts had signed, and with­out no­ti­fy­ing them.

Jamie has sug­gested the switch was in­ten­tional and de­ceit­ful, but with­out any cor­rob­o­rat­ing tes­ti­mony. In any case, she says, the ex­is­tence of two con­flict­ing doc­u­ments should com­pel the judge to throw them both out.

Why does Frank say Jamie

would sign an agree­ment waiv­ing her rights to Dodgers own­er­ship?

Frank says the agree­ment was drafted at Jamie’s in­sis­tence, in keep­ing with the McCourts’ prac­tice of putting their busi­nesses in his name and their res­i­dences in her name so as to in­su­late the homes from po­ten­tial cred­i­tors.

Sev­eral wit­nesses tes­ti­fied that Jamie told them she wanted no part of the risk of own­ing the Dodgers and that she re­fused to sign base­ball doc­u­ments that would have ex­posed her to fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity; no wit­ness has tes­ti­fied hear­ing Jamie say she wanted an own­er­ship share in the team.

“What the par­ties in­tended and what she wanted couldn’t be any clearer,” said Steve Sus­man, an at­tor­ney for Frank. “It’s all about how she can get out of the agree­ment.”

How does Jamie ex­plain her stance that the Dodgers could be Frank’s sole prop­erty dur­ing mar­riage but should be joint prop­erty upon divorce?

Jamie says — and Frank has not dis­puted — that the goal of the agree­ment was to mimic the law of Mas­sachusetts, where a di­vorc­ing cou­ple gen­er­ally di­vides all of its as­sets, no mat­ter which spouse owns any par­tic­u­lar as­set.

Frank tes­ti­fied that he un­der­stood that op­tion was not avail­able un­der Cal­i­for­nia law. How­ever, none of sev­eral lawyers who worked on the agree­ment tes­ti­fied to ex­per­tise in Cal­i­for­nia divorce law, and none said he had ex­plored whether Jamie could have shielded her­self from fi­nan­cial li­a­bil­ity re­lated to the Dodgers while re­tain­ing an own­er­ship share upon divorce.

“It is about the in­ten­tion of the par­ties,” said Den­nis Wasser, an at­tor­ney for Jamie. “They all wanted to pre­serve the sta­tus quo they had in Mas­sachusetts. The con­tract is all wrong.”

What hap­pens af­ter clos­ing ar­gu­ments?

Los An­ge­les Su­pe­rior Court Judge Scott Gor­don has un­til Dec. 28 to rule, which could com­pli­cate the Dodgers’ win­ter plans. Ma­jor League Base­ball’s win­ter meet­ings are sched­uled for Dec. 6-9.

The sides can set­tle at any time be­fore the judge is­sues his rul­ing, and they have agreed to ad­di­tional me­di­a­tion. In the ab­sence of a set­tle­ment, Gor­don also would sched­ule fu­ture hear­ings on spousal sup­port.

If Gor­don throws out the agree­ment, would the team go up for sale?

Not right away, and maybe not at all. Frank has promised to launch an­other le­gal fight, this one to es­tab­lish the Dodgers as his sole prop­erty on grounds in­de­pen­dent of the agree­ment. That is­sue — and/or a pos­si­ble ap­peal of Gor­don’s rul­ing — could take one to three years to re­solve. In the short term, the Dodgers would be likely to re­main un­der cur­rent man­age­ment.

Would Gor­don or­der the Dodgers sold?

That could hap­pen later, if the team is found to be com­mu­nity prop­erty and the McCourts can­not agree on how to di­vide their as­sets. In this trial, Gor­don has only been asked to de­cide whether the agree­ment is valid.

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