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Mediator in Dodgers' divorce case presents proposal to Frank and Jamie McCourt

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman gives the McCourts until the end of the month to accept or reject his plan. Bingham McCutchen, the firm that employs a key lawyer in the battle for ownership of the team, also is part of mediation.

November 23, 2010|By Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall

As the mediator in the Dodgers' divorce case prepared his settlement proposal, he consulted not only with Frank and Jamie McCourt but with representatives from Bingham McCutchen, the firm that employs the lawyer whose actions could determine who owns the team.

The mediation process is confidential, but analysts said the mediator likely invited Bingham to help fund a settlement now rather than risk a potentially more costly malpractice suit later.

The consultation was confirmed by four sources familiar with the case, all speaking on condition of anonymity because of the confidentiality guideline. It is unknown what kind of financing arrangements, if any, the settlement proposal suggests.

"Mediation discussions are confidential, and Bingham is unable to comment," Bingham spokesperson Claire Papanastasiou said Tuesday.

The mediator, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman, has given each of the McCourts until the end of the month to accept or reject his proposal. In the absence of a settlement, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon has until Dec. 28 to rule whether to uphold a marital agreement that would give Frank McCourt sole ownership of the Dodgers.

Larry Silverstein, the Bingham attorney who drew up the agreement, has testified that he erred in drafting another version that specified the Dodgers were not Frank's sole property. He testified that he corrected that version by substituting one copy for another — after the McCourts had signed the document and without notifying either of them.

Jamie McCourt has cited Silverstein's actions in asking Gordon to invalidate the agreement.

That Lichtman approached Bingham does not necessarily mean that Gordon is likely to throw out the agreement, said Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney.

However, she said Lichtman could have identified Bingham funds as a source to narrow the nine-figure gap between what Frank has offered to settle the case and what Jamie has requested, with the probability that Bingham could stand to lose far more money in a malpractice suit.

J. Michael Kelly, a Santa Monica family law attorney, said Bingham could face liability from whichever of the McCourts loses.

"There is no way out," Kelly said.

Separately, Gordon decreed the McCourts were divorced as of Oct. 26, a ruling that has no impact on the court proceedings.

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

carla.hall@latimes.com

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