This morning, the sides will meet with Judge Peter Lichtman, who will mediate settlement discussions in the hope of ending this litigations. The lawyers' expectations vary wildly, even on the same side. I've heard we'll definitely be back Monday, and I've heard there's a small, but reasonable, chance this could be over shortly.
The process is expected to go as follows: each side prepared a brief settlement proposal to submit to Judge Lichtman. He will likely meet with representatives from each side individually. It was unknown whether Frank and Jamie McCourt would be present personally, but--as legal ethics are an important topic in this mess--we must note that the parties themselves have the ultimate say on their participation and any agreement.
Often, as the mediation progresses, the judge may encourage parties, or their representatives, to meet. This usually occurs after the judge has identified an issue--maybe even a minor one--on which the parties share common ground. Mediation is psychological; encouraging the parties to come together on inconsequential issues can foster meaningful discussions on the big-picture items.
Stephen Susman mentioned yesterday that this mediation will go best if Judge Lichtman has spoken with Judge Gordon about the case. Judge Lichtman would then have a strong sense of where each party is strong and weak. That knowledge would make it easier for him to put settlement discussions in context. The fear of losing drives these negotiations, and you can expect Judge Lichtman to ask each side hard questions about what a loss at trial would mean for their client.
For Frank, a loss would be a crippling blow to his decades-long string of luck, fueled by hard work. He survived bitter litigation concerning the Seaport property, so he's been here before. A loss at trial would cost him the Dodgers, of course, making unavailable the best route to redeeming his public image: winning on the diamond.
For Jamie, a loss at trial would be a financial disaster. In a year's time, she will have gone from practically limitless resources to owning little more than tough-to-move real estate. Make no mistake: she'd be quite wealthy. But she'd have to think about how she spends her money, and that's a big change. She, herself, poured a lot of hard work into the couple's businesses over time. Her testimony notwithstanding, I believe Jamie is a very intelligent woman who simply found herself in a cascading run of hard times.
For both Frank and Jamie, a loss represents the end of their shared hopes for their sons to own and run the Dodgers. No one involved in the trial disputes their concern for their children; they have declined to involve the kids whatsoever, even though it's likely the children know things relevant to the case. The McCourts have done several things in recent years leading us to question their decisionmaking, so I think it's important to acknowledge they've at least kept the kids out of this.
The mediation is probably welcome the least in the fans' eyes. Any settlement agreement would keep the Dodgers in the McCourt family, an outcome a very high proportion of fans fear. To me, that speaks to the tragedy of the entire situation; the fan base of the Los Angeles Dodgers is actively rooting for the trial to continue, because it is the path to new ownership. And, should the litigation continue, no definite end is in sight. This part will conclude next week, but we'd be months--if not a year or two--from anything approaching finality.
So we wait and watch. I'll certainly update as events warrant, and I'll also post later today about the disputed timeline concerning the creation, execution, and modification of the MPA.
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