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Altering of McCourts' marital agreement not grounds for throwing it out, attorney argues

September 29, 2010 |  3:49 pm

Jamie McCourt had no interest in an ownership share of the Dodgers and is trying to get one now by diverting the attention of the court to a lawyer's mistake, an attorney for Frank McCourt argued Wednesday.

Jamie is staking her case on a drafting error by Larry Silverstein, the lawyer who drew up the now-disputed agreement that Frank claims gives him sole ownership of the Dodgers.

Steve Susman, an attorney for Frank, charged Jamie with creating a "lynch Larry mentality."

Said Susman to Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon: "We are confident, your honor, you will not be fooled by this tactic."

Susman said he would not condone Silverstein's switching of a page in the agreement after the McCourts had signed it, and he even said Silverstein could face a malpractice claim. However, Susman said that switch did not constitute grounds for throwing out the agreement, as Jamie had asked.

"It would be wrong to punish either party for what Mr. Silverstein did," Susman said, "when neither one of them even knew about it" before this year, six years after they signed.

Susman and another attorney for Frank, Sorrell Trope, each said Jamie had gotten exactly what she wanted in the agreement: sole ownership of the couple's homes, without liability from the Dodgers and other business ventures listed as Frank's sole property.

In his closing argument, Dennis Wasser, the attorney for Jamie, had faulted Silverstein for not finding out whether California law could have mimicked Massachusetts law, in which a couple can own separate property during a marriage but still pool and then divide that property upon divorce.

But Trope, the 82-year-old dean of Southern California family law attorneys, said California law does not provide such an option.

"It would be a fraud on creditors to say you should have a division of assets that would be effective so long as you're married but not divorced," Trope said. "That agreement at its inception would be deemed something to defraud creditors."

Trope added: "I don't think that would be countenanced in this state. I don't think this court should countenance it."

-- Bill Shaikin at L.A. County Superior Court