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Frank McCourt cuts ties with law firm that drew up faulty marital property agreement

The firm, Bingham McCutchen, employs the attorney who listed the Dodgers first as joint property of Frank and Jamie McCourt and then as Frank's property only, leading the judge in the couple's divorce case to rule he could not determine what they had intended.

January 29, 2011|By Bill Shaikin
  • Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has parted ways with the law firm that drew up the faulty marital property agreement he had with his ex-wife Jamie.
Dodgers owner Frank McCourt has parted ways with the law firm that drew up… (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles…)

Frank McCourt has severed ties with Bingham McCutchen, the law firm whose attorney drew up the faulty agreement that could cost McCourt ownership of the Dodgers.

McCourt parted ways with Bingham late last month, after Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon threw out an agreement that would have given McCourt sole ownership of the team. The Times confirmed the split Friday with three people familiar with the matter, none of whom was authorized to speak publicly about it.

Neither Steve Sugerman, the spokesman for McCourt, nor Claire Papanastasiou, the spokeswoman for Boston-based Bingham, would comment.

Legal analysts have suggested McCourt might sue the law firm, claiming its actions cost him the team. Generally, McCourt would have one year from the time Bingham stopped representing him to sue, said Michael Dempsey, a Century City attorney specializing in legal malpractice.

Dempsey said it would be "highly likely" that the sides would have reached an agreement to waive that one-year limit, since the McCourt divorce litigation could extend beyond that.

Such an agreement would preserve McCourt's right to sue — and ultimately could spare Bingham from a claim of liability if McCourt can secure ownership of the Dodgers, in court or in a settlement.

Bingham attorney Larry Silverstein had represented Frank and his ex-wife Jamie even before advising the couple in the 2004 purchase of the Dodgers, and the firm advertised at Dodger Stadium. Bingham attorney Marshall Grossman represented the team's interests in the divorce proceedings.

Silverstein testified in September that he changed a key word in a marital property agreement, after the McCourts had signed the document and without informing either one.

Silverstein said he had simply corrected language to establish the Dodgers as Frank's separate property in accordance with the couple's intent. However, since three of the copies Silverstein prepared listed the team as Frank's property and three did not, Gordon ruled he could not determine what the couple had intended.

In a statement last month, Bingham said Gordon did not "make a finding … that Larry Silverstein engaged in any misconduct."

bill.shaikin@latimes.com

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