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The McCourt trial: my gut is that Jamie is going to win, even if she shouldn't

Sep 30, 2010, 1:30 PM EDT

The McCourt trial ended yesterday, with closing statements offered by the attorneys. Lots of different attorneys, according to the L.A. Times summary. Each side had, like, three people making arguments. What was this, a tag team match?  I understand multiple lawyers taking stabs at different parts of closing if it’s a complicated case, but this is a bench trial in which, basically, a single fact was at issue.  And people wonder how the McCourts could have run up $8 million in attorneys fees.

Anyway, here’s an insight that may appeal to, like, six of you who care about such things, but I just can’t shake it: Frank McCourt’s lawyers keep arguing that the business with his lawyer switching out versions of the agreement that was to decide who owns the Dodgers was no big deal.  A clerical error. A “scrivener’s error.”  Of no consequence at all. But tell me: if Jamie wins, and Frank has to give her hundreds of millions of dollars, how much time will elapse between the judgment coming down and the malpractice suit Frank files against his “scrivener”?  I’m guessing he may let a day go by, but not two, and when he does he will characterize it as the most egregious case of professional misconduct in the history of Anglo-American jurisprudence. That’ll be fun.

As for the outcome, I don’t really know what to think.  Based on everything I’ve read, I am of the opinion that Jamie McCourt’s story that she always thought she was going to own half the team is self-serving post-facto baloney. I don’t buy that she didn’t read the documents and understand what she was signing. I don’t buy that Frank was truly going to give her every one of their houses AND the Dodgers.  It just doesn’t make sense to me based on the things we’ve heard about their respective appetites for risk, their history and all of that. I simply don’t find her side of the story credible.

At the same time, I do find the scrivener’s story credible. I bet there was an error in the documents and that — as the man who made the error — the lawyer did just go back and try to substitute the correct document in there and hope no one ever figured it out.  I used to do a lot of professional responsibility defense work, and I’ve seen lots of lawyers do this. It’s always, always, always the wrong thing to do, but I’ve seen them do it.

But just because I find it credible doesn’t mean it’s defensible. There’s too much at stake in the legal system — not just for rich people like the McCourts but for everyone — for courts to overlook lawyer misconduct and make assumptions about what was really going on. Yes, in this case taking a hard line may reward Jamie’s post-facto baloney and may, in the end, cost Frank the Dodgers. But it’s going to be hard for a judge to essentially validate the document switcheroo.

We’ll find out for sure in 90 days, when a decision comes out.

  1. Kevin S. - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:42 PM

    No, we won’t find out in 90 days, because it’s a cert that the losing side will appeal. That said, I’m rooting for Jamie for two reasons: one, an ultimate win for her forces the sale of the Dodgers, and two because I love me some David Boies from some of his, ahem, other recent high-profile casework.

  2. Panda_Claus - Sep 30, 2010 at 1:59 PM

    The sooner the Dodgers are sold the better. The divorce itself most people don’t even care about.

  3. geoknows - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:06 PM

    90 days?!? It takes a judge 90 days to come up with a decision in a freakin’ divorce case?

  4. Buccofan - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:11 PM

    Give them each 50% of the Dodgers, with an order to sell the team at a price and terms agreeable to MLB, NOT each of them. If left to them, it’ll never get sold as each will think the other is pulling a fast one.
    Split the houses and other toys 50/50.
    Order that all legal fees are to be paid out of the Dodger sale ONLY. That should speed things up.
    Order immediate psychiatric care for both of them.
    Disbar Jamie for all her BS about not understanding legal documents.
    Order both to never show their faces at a major league stadium again.

  5. HomeHalfwayDotNet - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:15 PM

    As annoying as the sale of my beloved Cubs was, I’m glad it never got this ugly and nasty.

  6. Old Gator - Sep 30, 2010 at 2:31 PM

    Scrooge McLoria got separated recently, maybe even divorced. Because the Feesh weren’t on the table, hardly anyone noticed and no one cared. But dear Buddha, how do I wish the team had been involved. The idea of Scrooge and the Chihuahua having to disencumber themselves of the team just flat out eroticizes my daydreams.
    Meanwhile, I like this McCourt fiasco a lot. Another thing that really appeals to my imagination is visualizing smoke coming out of Bud Light’s ears whenever the gibbering idiot tries to figure out how to handle this mess from his end. I’d love to see his head blow apart like that Mr. Whipple clone in Scanners.

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