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Jamie McCourt rejects divorce settlement proposal

Frank McCourt accepts deal, but with Jamie's rejection, issue of who owns Dodgers may be in limbo into new year and beyond. Judge Gordon has until Jan. 18 to rule on validity of marital agreement.

November 30, 2010|By Bill Shaikin and Carla Hall

Frank and Jamie McCourt had 11 days to consider a proposal to settle their divorce case, and with it the ownership of the Dodgers.

As a noon deadline approached Tuesday, Frank accepted the proposal. Jamie turned it down.

That could leave the issue of who owns the Dodgers in limbo into the new year, and perhaps beyond. The McCourts now await a ruling from Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon on the validity of a marital agreement that would provide Frank with sole ownership of the Dodgers.

Jamie has asked Gordon to throw out the agreement, which could leave ownership of the team in dispute for several years. Gordon has until Jan. 18 to rule.

It was originally thought Gordon had until Dec. 28 to rule, but court spokeswoman Mary Hearn said the 90-day clock did not start until the sides submitted post-trial briefs in October.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Peter Lichtman, who worked for two months as the mediator in the case, declared the two sides at impasse. Lichtman ordered both sides not to discuss the particulars of his settlement proposal, or the mediation process.

The word of the impasse came not from the court but from an afternoon news release issued by Marc Seltzer, an attorney for Frank.

In a statement, Seltzer said Frank had accepted the proposal because he considered it "the responsible thing to do for his family, the Dodgers organization and the entire community."

Seltzer added: "We can only conclude that Jamie … is allowing this matter to drag on further."

The statement stunned Jamie's lawyers, who said they believed that Lichtman's order prevented them even from confirming that Jamie had rejected the proposal.

"We believe that the court ordered complete confidentiality regarding the settlement proposal and everything related to it," said Mike Kump, an attorney for Jamie.

Lisa Helfend Meyer, a family law attorney in Century City, said Jamie most likely rejected the proposal because she believes Gordon will rule in her favor.

"The bottom line is, she feels she can do better by waiting for the judge's decision than compromising now," Meyer said.

In any settlement, Frank would be expected to retain control of the Dodgers and Jamie would be expected to receive a payout. Meyer said the statement issued by Seltzer enabled Frank to portray himself as a sensible team owner and portray Jamie as "the greedy person."

Lynn Soodik, a family law attorney in Santa Monica, said it would be difficult to analyze Frank's decision to accept the proposal without knowing what was in it.

In his statement, Seltzer said Frank "fully supported the mediation process in the hopes that it … would bring long-awaited closure to this matter."

Said Soodik: "He might have just wanted to end it. Either he did not want to risk going to court, or he thought the offer was fair — or he knew Jamie would reject it, so he would look like the good guy."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

carla.hall@latimes.com

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