One day into the McCourt divorce trial, this much is clear: Larry Silverstein's conflicting designations of whether the Dodgers are within the scope of the MPA was either an act of cold deceit or potentially the costliest scrivener's error in American legal history. If I'm getting ahead of myself, here's the context: there are two versions of the McCourt MPA. One of them specifies that the Dodgers are Frank's and Frank's alone. The other specifically excludes the Dodgers from the assets made Frank's by the MPA. Resolution of that issue will likely--but far from conclusively--determine the outcome of the litigation.
The day began with Judge Gordon ruling on a series of motions in limine. In English, this meant that he decided on some sorts of evidence which would or would not be admissible in trial. The first motion decided was perhaps the most confusing; each side claimed victory. Judge Gordon ruled that extrinsic evidence will not be allowed as to the MPA. It's not quite that simple, though; the ruling, as I heard it, covered only whether transmutation did or did not occur. Again, in English, outside evidence can still be allowed when relevant to prove or challenge other aspects of the MPA.
The remaining preliminary motions were a bit more straightforward. Both parties stipulated to the admissibility of the two versions of the MPA, which was expected. Jamie then lost on three consecutive points. First, Judge Gordon declined to admit the expert testimony of a lawyer Jamie brought in to testify on legal ethics. Judge Gordon informed Jamie that there were more than enough lawyers in the room to work through that point. Jamie also lost on a bid to admit the current value of the Dodgers assets into evidence. Judge Gordon said that the only relevant valuation at this stage concerns the time the documents were signed, though it might come into play later in the asset division context. Lastly, Jamie lost her argument to examine the MPA under Massachusetts law. This here's California.
Jamie's case in chief began with one of her attorneys, Dennis Wasser, quoting Sir Walter Scott: "Oh what a tangled web we weave, / When first we practise to deceive!" Spoiler alert: he's suggesting Frank cheated Jamie out of the Dodgers. He proceeded to score on a series of body blows; it didn't look good for Frank McCourt when Jamie's team displayed a copy of Larry Silverstein's handwritten notes with variants of the word "exclusive" showing up twice. "The evidence will show," Wasser said, "that [Jamie] questioned the original [version of the MPA]."
Frank's side, of course, disagrees. He says that the Exhibits--clearly described as "for courtesy"--don't hold nearly the same weight as the body of the MPA, which simply cares about title to the various properties. In fact, Frank's lead trial attorney, Steve Susman, called Jamie "likely the first such highly-educated, former CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation to try to get out of a contract she claimed she didn't understand." He didn't stop there, though. "Jamie is seeking to become the first spouse ever in the state of California to invalidate an MPA she proposed."
Perhaps the most surreal aspect of the litigation was something we've seen before: the absurd positions each side needs to take. Frank purchased the Dodgers "with zero experience [and] limited liquidity," one attorney said. Problem: that was Frank's attorney. Susman also characterized the supposed MPA drafting mistake as "insignificant and innocuous." If true, of course, we wouldn't be here today. He also said that "a junior high school student could understand" the effect of the MPA. Susman's a character, and brought a delightful sense of humor to an otherwise-stale proceeding. "Your honor, Jamie's testimony might be the most incredible thing this court has ever heard," he added.
Importantly to the litigation, Susman also claimed that Jamie McCourt "never saw a draft with an error in it." If true, that's a powerful point. The day dragged on, and drew to a merciful close with the couple's estate planning attorney, Leah Bishop, on the stand. Bishop testified that she "snapped" at Frank about the McCourts' lack of individual representation in the execution of the MPA, and that Jamie "had a fundamental misunderstanding" of its effect. She also claimed that Frank told her the MPA he now seeks to enforce was "not what it was supposed to be." Frank's attorneys will counter that those words had to do with something entirely different.
He'll have his chance soon enough. Once Susman cross-examines Bishop, Jamie's attorneys are expected to put Frank McCourt himself on the stand. David Boies, who earned a DNP: Coach's decision today, may well conduct the direct examination of Frank McCourt. Susman explained on the courthouse steps that he is excited for the opportunity to cross-examine Frank, as it is when his true story will come out.
I'll be back late tonight or tomorrow morning with some additional nuggets on the first day's events, as well as a preview of tomorrow's. If this post has seemed rambling, lengthy, and incoherent...well, it's about how I feel. Been a long day. And it gets longer: I will be on the Fox 11 10:00 news this evening to talk about the divorce from the fan's perspective. Gloria Allred will also be in studio, which will certainly be a new experience for me.
Let me know if you prefer this comprehensive sort of post, or if you would prefer several more focused ones. Today, this was the only way to go given other obligations, but I want to make the site as helpful as possible. In that vein, feel free to consult and pass along the viewer's guide a couple posts down. As always, I try to be as reachable as possible. Submit any questions or comments, and shoot me an e-mail if you'll be in the courthouse. There was certainly some room to spare this afternoon.
Lastly, look for a chat here featuring Molly Knight tomorrow afternoon. It's not finalized yet; she still needs to sign my Exhibit A that says I get to keep all the traffic she's bound to drive my way.