The Work

June 29, 2010 7:19 PM

Formidable Legal Lineup for McCourt Divorce Case

Posted by Brian Baxter

Two all-star litigators are set to face off in a court battle that will determine ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team.

Stephen Susman of Susman Godfrey is now part of the legal team representing Frank McCourt--the Boston real estate developer and owner of the Dodgers, not the late author of the same name--in his divorce case, The Los Angeles Times reports.

The Am Law Daily previously has reported on the ever-growing list of lawyers for both McCourt and his wife, Jamie. The two split up during the Dodgers's playoff run last fall. Now, ownership of the team hangs in the balance as the McCourt's battle over assets in an increasingly nasty divorce case (so messy is it that it's even spawned its own legal blog).

We reached out to one of several lawyers working on the case to try and tally up the number of attorneys involved in the McCourt divorce. A secretary answering one call replied, "You're magazine's not big enough to list all of them."

Thankfully the Web has no such constraints.

Susman Godfrey isn't new to the case itself. Partners Marc Seltzer and Victoria Cook in Los Angeles have been advising Frank McCourt along with associates Ryan Kirkpatrick and Matthew Berry. With a trial date tentatively scheduled for August 30 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Stephen Susman told the L.A. Times that it was time for him to get off the bench and into the game.

"It was always understood that, if the case got close to trial, I would be the lead counsel," Susman said. "It was time for me to get involved."

Assisting Susman and his legal team is powerful divorce lawyer Sorrell Trope from L.A.'s Trope and Trope. Trope's A-list clients have included Cary Grant, Rod Steiger, Nicole Kidman, Nicolas Cage, Hugh Grant, Britney Spears, and most recently, Tiger Woods's estranged wife, Elin Nordegren.

Also representing Frank McCourt from Trope's firm: partners Mark Patt, Thomas Dunlap, James Durant, and Anne Kiley. Manley Freid of L.A.'s Freid and Goldsman, who specializes in family law, also has advised the current Dodgers owner.

Frank McCourt has also lined up counsel for the Dodgers in the battle with his wife. Prominent L.A. litigator Marshall Grossman, a partner with Bingham McCutchen, is representing the team along with Debra Fischer, deputy chair of the firm's litigation practice. Grossman isn't just helping the team in the courtroom; at a game this past weekend he helped out a fan choking on a "meat product," according to Hollywood gossip blog TMZ. (Grossman didn't return a phone call seeking comment.)

After being fired from her job with the Dodgers in October, Jamie McCourt began building her own powerhouse team of litigators to take on her husband.

Partners Dennis Wasser, Bruce Cooperman, and Amy Rice from L.A. family law firm Wasser, Cooperman & Carter were the first to sign on. (Wasser and his client had dinner with Grossman and Frank McCourt last November, according to TMZ.)

Jamie McCourt, a lawyer herself, added David Boies to her burgeoning legal squad in March. Boies, a founding partner of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, is being assisted by Boies family law partner James Miller in Hollywood. Also on Team Jamie McCourt are litigation partners Michael Kump and Suann MacIsaac with Santa Monica's Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert.

Additionally, high-powered Hollywood entertainment lawyer Bertram Fields of Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger continues to serve as a "strategic adviser" to Jamie McCourt's legal team, according to a recent interview he gave The Huffington Post about the case.

In recent months, lawyers for both McCourts have made court filings accusing each side of understating their assets--Forbes valued the Dodgers at $722 million last year. In May, a judge ordered Frank McCourt to pay his estranged wife $637,000 per month in spousal support and to sell a property to help Jamie McCourt pay her lawyers.

Legal fees for both sides are estimated to exceed $19 million separately--in one court document, Jamie McCourt requested $2 million in fees for her attorneys at the Wasser firm alone. Dodgers fans are worried that all the money being spent on lawyers will preclude the team from increasing its payroll to compete in a pennant race.

For now, don't count on either side to buckle under the pressure and settle the case. Susman told the L.A. Times that he has faced off against Boies in two trials--and each lawyer ended up with one win. He's looking forward to another showdown.

"This is the tiebreaker," Susman said.

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Are the McCourts insane?You do not win anything by using lawyers to bash the tar out of each other in court. It may make you feel good for the moment but please 25 plus
lawyers? over 20 million in legal fees?Divide eveything up, sell and split your holdings and for your own well being move on.

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