A Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled on Tuesday in favor of Jamie McCourt, invalidating a disputed 2004 marital agreement that would have made Frank McCourt the sole owner of the Dodgers.
While the ruling by Judge Scott Gordon is not expected to affect the day-to-day operations of the Dodgers, the legal process could continue for some time, the Los Angeles Times reported on Tuesday.
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The main question before Gordon in the divorce case between Jamie and Frank McCourt was the validity of a marital agreement signed in March 2004, months after the purchase of the Dodgers was finalized.
“The court finds that the marital property agreement is not a valid and enforceable agreement,” Gordon wrote in his ruling. “The court orders that the marital property agreement is set aside.” The decision means ownership of the Dodgers could be shared under California’s community property law, Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Jamie McCourt, told The Associated Press.
Marc Seltzer, a lawyer for Frank McCourt, said the ruling did not mean that the McCourts are co-owners of the Dodgers.
“Frank McCourt is the sole owner of the Dodgers,” Seltzer said in a statement. “Any media reports to the contrary are just wrong. This ruling does nothing to change the ownership of the Dodgers. Even without the marital property agreements in place, Jamie has no rights to the team.
“Without the agreements in place, it becomes the court’s job to determine which property is Frank’s and which is Jamie’s based on who holds legal title to the team. The facts are crystal clear on this point. The Dodgers are solely in Frank’s name.”
Frank McCourt’s attorneys said during the trial that the agreement was Jamie’s idea, with the intention of protecting their homes from creditors if the Dodgers suffered major financial losses.
Jamie’s attorneys said the agreement should be thrown out on the grounds that she didn’t intend to sign away her rights to ownership of the club and would not have signed the document if she had known the impact.
Further complications involving the agreement arose during the trial preparation. Lawyers learned the couple signed six copies of the agreement, three of which said the Dodgers would be Frank’s sole property and three that didn’t.
A lawyer’s error, it was discovered, resulted in the two different versions. With the different versions indicating different results, it couldn’t be legally upheld, Jamie’s attorneys argued.
While it was a mistake, Frank’s attorneys contended that the intended result was the same: Jamie would hold no financial responsibility for the team.
Frank McCourt could decide to appeal the ruling as he is expected to attempt to use other legal strategies to claim sole ownership of the club, according to the Times. Other possible outcomes include using the latest ruling to return to settlement negotiations, an avenue that proved unsuccessful earlier in the process.
“For Frank, today’s decision means more time at the courthouse,” Seltzer said. “Nothing changes in terms of the ownership, management, control or the day-to-day business operation of the Dodgers. That’s all firmly in Frank McCourt’s hands. We are very confident there will be no changes to the ownership of the Dodgers.”
The McCourts filed for divorce on Oct. 27, 2009. Their 30th anniversary would have been one week later.