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DODGERS

Jamie McCourt is denied bid for reinstatement as Dodgers' CEO

Divorce hearing chief says the court can't rule on employment. Dodgers' ownership is seen as 'substantial' trial issue.

November 06, 2009|Dylan Hernandez and Carla Hall

On the day the Angels re-signed Bobby Abreu to a multiyear deal, the future of the Dodgers started to take shape on the eighth floor of the Los Angeles Superior Court building.

Slowly.

While Jamie McCourt was denied her request to be immediately reinstated as the Dodgers' chief executive in an emergency hearing Thursday, the more important issue of whether she is a co-owner of the storied franchise along with soon-to-be ex-husband Frank McCourt did not become any clearer -- and probably won't be for some time.

Of a 2004 agreement that listed Frank McCourt as the sole owner of the Dodgers and Jamie McCourt the sole owner of multiple residences, Commissioner Scott Gordon said, "It's clear there was a post-marital agreement executed. . . . Whether that is valid or not is a substantial issue for trial."

Dennis Wasser, an attorney representing Jamie McCourt, said hearings regarding the ownership of the club wouldn't start until next year. A hearing on spousal support and further discussion of Jamie McCourt's employment is scheduled for Dec. 15.

Jamie McCourt, who was fired by her estranged husband last month, is asking for $467,634 in monthly support if she does not return to her job and $320,967 if she does.

The attorneys for Frank McCourt argued that he had the right to fire her and had paid her $500,000 to cover her salary from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31.

On Thursday, Gordon found no reason to reinstate Jamie McCourt.

"From an employment analysis," Gordon said, "there's no law that would support the court reinstating an employee."

Frank McCourt's family law attorney, Manley Fried, said he was "very pleased" with the ruling.

Frank and Jamie McCourt did not attend the hearing.

As expected, the spirited dialogue found in the filings continued in the courtroom. Mark Seltzer, another of Frank McCourt's attorneys, described Jamie McCourt's role with the Dodgers as "largely ceremonial."

"He makes the decisions," Seltzer said of Frank McCourt.

Seltzer added that reinstatement would be disastrous for the team.

"It would be disruptive, it would be inappropriate ... and it's something that would be very, very destructive," he said.

Kump countered: "There would be no discord in the Dodgers' office if she were reinstated to do what she was doing -- out dealing with the community, out dealing with philanthropic issues to further the brand of the Dodgers. If you want to call that largely ceremonial, so be it."

Kump said the parties had agreed for several weeks that Jamie would not file for divorce until the Dodgers' season was over, but Frank McCourt fired his wife on the morning of Oct. 21.

The Dodgers were eliminated later that day. Jamie McCourt filed for divorce a week later.

In another ruling, Gordon said he found no basis for the Dodgers to be a party to the divorce proceedings. Wasser called it an "important" victory.

Jamie McCourt's lawyers argued in a filing this week that papers filed in the team's name "unnecessarily and gratuitously" attacked her. In the Dodgers' filing, President Dennis Mannion declared that Jamie McCourt often failed to show up for work and put her interests ahead of the team.

"It means that the judge is following the law, which is that divorce is between two people, not two people and a baseball team," Wasser said.

Early in the hearing, Frank McCourt's lawyers said their client had agreed to let Jamie McCourt have sole access to their side-by-side Malibu residences. Also, they did not object to her having exclusive use of the swimming pool at one of their Holmby Hills homes from "6 a.m. to 2 p.m."

Frank McCourt is not living in either of the Holmby Hills homes, Fried said. He is living elsewhere in Los Angeles.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

carla.hall@latimes.com

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