Southern California -- this just in

« Previous Post | L.A. NOW Home | Next Post »

McCourt divorce: Damaging admission from lawyer who negotiated Dodgers agreement

Mccourts Jamie McCourt won a potentially damaging admission Thursday from the lawyer who negotiated the now-disputed agreement at the heart of the McCourt divorce trial underway in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Larry Silverstein, the Boston attorney who drafted the agreement, has testified that he was simply correcting an innocent mistake when he changed a word after the McCourts had signed the document. By substituting "inclusive" for "exclusive" after the fact, Silverstein categorized the Dodgers as Frank McCourt's separate property instead of as the couple's joint property.

David Boies, the attorney for Jamie McCourt, pointed out to Silverstein a clear error that still exists in the agreement -- two references to "the respective attorneys of the parties." Silverstein represented both of the McCourts in the agreement.

Boies asked Silverstein when he noticed that error.

"It was after they signed," Silverstein said.

The testimony raised the question of why Silverstein would correct what he said was one minor mistake discovered after the fact when he did not correct what he said was another minor mistake after the fact.

"There's no way to reconcile that mistake and not fixing it with his claim [that] the only reason he switched the schedules [that specified who would own the Dodgers] was to fix a mistake," Boies said outside court.

Boies has repeatedly suggested the switch was intentional and that Silverstein "fraudulently altered" documents to deprive Jamie McCourt of her right to a share of the Dodgers.

Victoria Cook, the attorney for Frank McCourt, asked Silverstein under direct examination whether any fraud had been involved.

"Absolutely not," Silverstein said.

Cook referenced a May 1, 2009, e-mail in which Jamie McCourt wrote to Silverstein, "My fault, I guess, for not having read the post-marital document and believing you were preserving the status quo."

Jamie McCourt has argued she believed the disputed agreement preserved her rights to the Dodgers in the event of divorce, in line with the law in the couple's former home of Massachusetts.

Cook elicited testimony that Jamie McCourt had invited Silverstein to meet for drinks on May 14, 2009, at which time she did not follow up on the issues she raised in her e-mail.

"She was talking about her book," Silverstein said. "[She was]) writing a book."

Cook concluded by asking Silverstein about consideration the McCourts gave in 2008 to convert all their assets to community property. Silverstein had informed Jamie McCourt she would need to sign three documents so Major League Baseball could consider approving her as an owner, including an indemnification agreement.

Her response, according to Silverstein: "She said she wasn't going to sign any bleeping MLB forms."

Frank McCourt has testified -- and Silverstein has corroborated -- that Jamie McCourt was the one who pushed for the agreement now in question, intent on keeping the McCourt residences in her name and the McCourt business assets -- including the Dodgers -- in Frank McCourt's name so as to protect the homes from creditors.

The judge in the case appeared to grow increasingly irritated with some of the testimony given by Silverstein and even more irritated when Silverstein's cellphone rang while he was on the witness stand.

Cook asked Silverstein if he had the McCourts' permission to change what he said was a mistake in the agreement after the couple had signed it.

"I believed I did," Silverstein said.

Judge Scott Gordon declared the answer was "non-responsive." When Silverstein tried a similar answer, Gordon decided to do the questioning himself.

The judge pointed to Jamie McCourt and said, "The lady there, sir, did she ever tell you you could change the two pieces of paper?"

"No," Silverstein said.

Gordon pointed to Frank McCourt and said, "The gentleman, sir, did he ever tell you you could change the two pieces of paper?"

"No," Silverstein said.

When Cook asked whether Silverstein thought he should have informed the McCourts of the change, Silverstein said, "In reflection, I wish I had."

Gordon also ruled that the answer was non-responsive. Cook asked Silverstein whether he had made a mistake.

"It was not the best practice," Silverstein said.

"Do you admit it was a mistake?" Cook said.

"I admit it was not the best practice," Silverstein said.

-- Bill Shaikin at Los Angeles County Superior Court

Photos: Frank and Jamie McCourt. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (28)

This is the exact same type of lawyer who swindled land/resources/money from American Indian tribes.

These sordid, greedy, pathetic, and miserable excuses for people all deserve each other and every single derogatory thing that happens to them. Given all they have and all they are blessed with, they are a disgrace to humanity. The lawyers we can understand as unethical and immoral sleazoids, but these two take the vomit cake.

No NO NO, as a lawyer you do not just "fix" language changing a contract regarding millions of dollars worth of property. I have been a lawyer for 20 years and not only is this not " best practice" it is full on malpractice. The reason the answers are evasive is that the attorney is covering his own (insert body part here) because he knows he messed up big time. The suit against him will be the next one we read about. And turn off your phone, that is courtroom etiquette 101.

Boy, are there alot of slimey practioners in the legal profession. They are professional liars, and I wonder if they're able to separate the truth from lies in their personal lives?

Regardless of any of his rationale after the fact, Cook should be disbarred. Any lawyer who changes a signed contract after the fact without telling either party shouldn't be lawyering.

I meant Silverstein.

I predict Silverstein the Attorney will soon become Silverstein the Politician. He makes Bill Clinton on the witness stand look like an amateur in comparison.

Greedy gold digger gonna ruin the Dodgers. After she wins, she's going to do everything she can to destroy the Dodgers in order to spite her ex and ensure that he loses millions. Thanks for your service to Los Angeles Judge Scott Gordon. When it comes to divorce, family law needs some dire changes.

If Frank McCourt loses, seems like he would have a good malpractice case against Silverstein, though he wouldn't be able to recover anywhere close to what he stands to lose here. Sounds like Frank McCourt/Victoria Cook are setting up a laches argument: Jamie McCourt knew about the change, but did nothing about it (she slept on her rights); had she pressed the issue at the time, Frank could have had the issue clarified years ago, and he wouldn't be in danger of losing half the team now (her delay makes his position much worse). Any lawyers care to comment?

This may be McCourt, but there is no dollar menu, here.

I can see no way that this testimony is not a game changer for both parties. Frank just lost half the Dodgers and Jamie just gained half the debt Frank bought the Dodgers with. In addition, and no one mentions this, Frank just got himself one half of the couples only true assets...the houses.

The good news: the Dodgers will be sold and I predict before the 2011 season. Frank is out of money, not that he ever had any, and no one is going to back Jamie to buy Frank out and add to that mountain of debt.

So long Parking Lot Attendant and Screaming Meanie. Back to Boston where Frank can collect parking fees and Jamie can swim in Boston Harbor.

This is just an I want to win contest. I understand the team is not worth what is owed on it. Pathetic in my estimation. Soon there won't be anyone in any of the sports venues because they can't afford parking, a ticket or food. When you have to pay $50 to park to watch a football game it is out of control and I have heard that is the going price in many places.

OK, here is what I don't get.
If she is considered an owner of the Dodgers how does this paper shield
them from losses since the creditors could go after the assets. If it does not
shield the assets, what is the benefit to Frank to putting it into her name?

Oh, and I prefer the Dodgers to get sold and away from these carpetbagging
idiots who have thrashed the Dodgers,

i will not be hiring this lawyer anytime soon. probably nobody else will, either.

If you save 100 bubble gum wrappers and send them in with a money order for $2.50, you can receive a framed Degree in Legal Stuff from Bubble Joe University!

God who really cares about there problems. Sell the Dodgers so we can get back to a winning way.Nobody would know what's going on with them if he didn't own the team. That would be perfect

Everybody Dodger fan should be rooting for Jamie, as much as we don't like her. If she gets half of the team the team would have to be sold, since neither party can buy the other one out.

What a shyster!

He acts like "inclusive" and "exclusive" are practically interchangeable, but they're opposite. @@@@ DISBAR!!!!!@@@@

I hope that Silverstein had malpractice insurance,
b/c he's going to be sued by the loser in this case for everything he has!

Ray ---what the HECK are you talking about? Way to get in your political gripes where it doesn't belong.

Can we take up a collection to send these lovely people back to Boston? It'll be worth every penny, considering how much we'll save on parking.

Sick of the McCourt's greed and personal issues... The Dodgers were once a glorious baseball franchise and now the McCourt's have done everthing they can to tarnish that image. SELL NOW AND GET OUT OF TOWN!

This is exactly why I moved out of LA. It's a bubble filled with deception and money...

The following from Larry Silverstein "I admit it was not the best practice," is the greatest understatement ever made.

This is the saddest excuse I have ever read. This attorney… Larry Silverstein … should pay for all the extra costs resulting from his “MISTAKE”. Regardless of who is divorcing whom the “MISTAKE” has costs the McCourts and the courts big bucks, wasted time and lots of emotion.

This attorney should be disbarred immediately if not sooner.

My own kids can be forgiven for some outrageous mistakes because they are children but the guy Larry Silverstein, is simply an idiot, an incompetent lawyer and represents every good or bad joke told about lawyers.


I hope Mark Cuban is watching !

1 2 | »


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...


About L.A. Now
L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
Have a story tip for L.A. Now?
Please send to newstips@latimes.com
Can I call someone with news?
Yes. The city desk number is (213) 237-7847.


Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: