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Judge's ruling in favor of Jamie McCourt is based on legal fundamentals

December 7, 2010 | 12:45 pm

For all the revelations from the divorce proceedings between Frank and Jamie McCourt -- side-by-side homes in Holmby Hills and Malibu, the Dodgers charging themselves millions in rent each year, the payments to Russian physicist Vladimir Shpunt for channeling positive thoughts to the team -- the reason for Tuesday's court ruling was fundamental and technical.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon threw out an agreement that would have divided the McCourt assets and left Frank with sole ownership of the Dodgers because the agreement -- known by its initials as an MPA -- did not conform to California law.

"The Court finds that the MPA was not a valid transmutation," Gordon wrote, citing a legal term for transferring what would otherwise be community property into the sole and separate property of one spouse or another.

That could be disturbing news at Bingham McCutchen, the Boston-based firm that employed Larry Silverstein, the lawyer who drafted the agreement. Gordon also wrote that Silverstein's admission that he switched a page of the agreement after the McCourts had signed it and without notifying them "is troubling and has introduced great challenges in this case. The evidence does not produce a reasonable explanation for Silverstein's exchange of such critical documents without notification or consultation of the parties."

Silverstein argued that his document switch merely corrected an error, replacing a page that specified the Dodgers were not Frank's sole property with one that specified they were, in accordance with what he said was the intent of the parties. However, given such a fundamental difference between the two documents, Gordon wrote: "The Court finds that there has not been sufficient evidence presented to indicate which of the two materially inconsistent MPA's represented the actual intent of the parties."

Legal experts have said Frank could file a malpractice claim against Bingham if he can show he lost ownership of the Dodgers because of Silverstein's mistakes.

Gordon also ruled that McCourt's testimony about not knowing or reviewing the details of the agreement was not believable.

"The testimony of both parties as to their lack of knowledge and attention to the details of the MPA is not credible," Gordon said.

-- Bill Shaikin

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