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McCourt divorce: His lawyers strive for damage control

September 21, 2010 |  5:59 pm

At the end of Tuesday's testimony over the disputed ownership of the Dodgers, Frank McCourt’s lawyers scrambled to do some damage control.

They cast Larry Silverstein, the lawyer who drew up the McCourts’ marital property agreement and made a change in it without telling them, as a “very ethical” lawyer who tried to correct a mistake.

“He tried to do the right thing,” Victoria Cook, one of Frank McCourt’s lawyers, said of Silverstein.

“We have conceded from the beginning that he should have picked up the phone and called his clients and said, ‘I made a mistake,’ ” Frank’s lawyer Steve Susman said outside the hearing being held at Los Angeles County Superior Court downtown.

Susman said Jamie McCourt’s lawyers have overblown what Silverstein did. “They’re claiming it’s sinister because that’s all they have.”

But Jamie McCourt’s lawyers said Silverstein’s admission that he switched the documents was a key moment in their case.

“By failing to go to the clients with this innocent mistake, as he calls it, he deprived both parties of the opportunity to clarify what they wanted,” said Bruce Cooperman, one of Jamie’s attorneys.

So neither version of the agreement should be honored: “Both contracts should be both thrown out,” said her attorney Dennis Wasser.

Silverstein, who was excused from testifying this afternoon due to health reasons, is expected back on the stand Wednesday.

Frank McCourt’s attorneys were asked how Silverstein was faring, knowing that his error -- whether it’s judged substantial or innocuous -- is a huge issue in the trial.

“I don’t think he’s haunted by it,” Cook said. “But he takes it very seriously.”

Los Angeles attorney Reynolds Cafferata, who helped prepare the marital property agreement, testified that Jamie McCourt understood the nature of separate property under California law.

"Are you certain you told Mrs. McCourt that separate property was not divided upon death or divorce?" asked Ryan Kirkpatrick, an attorney for Frank McCourt.

"Yes I did," Cafferata said.

Jamie McCourt testified Monday that she didn't realize the full impact of what she was signing. But Cafferata said, "She seemed to come to the conversations with a pretty good understanding."

Her attorneys dismissed that later.

“Mr. Cafferata had one 15-minute conversation with her,” said Jamie’s attorney Michael Kump. “The only thing he recalls her saying is ‘The houses are mine, the businesses are Frank’s.’ ”

-- Carla Hall in Los Angeles County Superior Court