McCourt divorce court helps launch a law student's career

Frank McCourt (center) leaves Los Angeles County Superior Court with his legal team on Aug. 20, 2010, after the first day of a non-jury divorce trial.
Frank McCourt (center) leaves Los Angeles County Superior Court with his legal team on Aug. 20, 2010, after the first day of a non-jury divorce trial. Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

The Dodgers baseball season is over — and soon, the divorce case of Jamie and Frank McCourt will be, too. Testimony in the “who owns the Dodgers?” phase ended last week.

The end of the McCourts’ marriage turned out to be the beginning of Josh Fisher’s legal career. The third-year law school student at the University of Minnesota has tracked the case at DodgerDivorce.com. Lawyers read it; fans read it; so does KPCC’s Nick Roman.

When it comes to covering the McCourts’ divorce, Josh Fisher is a five-tool player: Dodger fan, law student, a nose for business, the patience to sit in the courtroom during last month’s testimony in the McCourts’ divorce trial … and, best of all for us, an eye for detail in the courtroom.

"Jamie’s parents were there. If they weren’t there every day, they were there most days," says Fisher. "Some Dodgers executives would be in the courtroom on occasion. A few fans filtered in and out, although I was actually surprised that more didn’t come down."

Not that it would be easy to spot them. The case may be critical to the future of the Dodgers, but that doesn’t make the courtroom the bleachers at Dodger Stadium — although Frank McCourt’s lead attorney flashed some blue.

"Steve Susman often wore a Dodgers tie," says Fisher. "And occasionally, there would be people who would have to take off Dodger hats when they got in the courtroom. And I think I saw a shirt or two, but it was pretty reserved."

Credit LA Superior Court Judge Scott Gordon. He kept the lawyers on target and on the move — and that wasn’t easy. You had a courtroom full of well-known, flamboyant lawyers whose clients aren’t shy about publicity. Fisher says Judge Gordon often scolded the lawyers, but not for showing off.

"He felt the parties were making some repetitive arguments," he says. "He was very ready for the lawyers to, as he said, 'find new snow,' rather than hashing over the same issue again and again. At the same time, though, he controls the courtroom very well — and he made several jokes that really lightened up the proceedings."

Those proceedings — at least, the “who owns the Dodgers?” part — are over.

You know the basics: Frank McCourt says he and his wife hired an attorney to draw up a marital property agreement that gave him the Dodgers and her the houses; he says Jamie wanted to keep the houses safe from creditors in case the Dodger deal went bad. Jamie says she never intended to give up her stake in the Dodgers. Besides, the agreement is filled with typos and errors; how can you trust it?

"Frank’s facts are right, but I’m not sure he’s going to have enough to convince the judge to rule in his favor. Jamie’s side has done an excellent job creating confusion around the marital property agreement, and demonstrating it wasn’t executed with the detail and foresight that it should have been."

So Jamie wins — and Frank has to sell the Dodgers to pay her off, right? Maybe not, says the law school student behind DodgerDivorce.com. Fisher says there’s a third option: Frank and Jamie, who seem to battle endlessly, settle this thing out of court.

"It’s the only way to guarantee that the team stays in the family," explains Fisher. "And I believe they really do think they want their kids to have it."

And what does Fisher want to have? After spending nearly a year chronicling the McCourts’ marital mayhem, he, like most Dodger fans, wants it over.

"I tell you what. If they found a way to settle this thing," says Fisher, "I wouldn’t be terribly disappointed."

Judge Gordon has until the end of the year to decide how to divvy up the Dodgers. The McCourts could settle at any time, even after the judge rules. As for DodgerDivorce.com, it runs until the case is closed. Of course, maybe Fisher will get a job with a legal firm that will keep him so busy he can’t keep up the website. If that happens, you can bet he won’t be handling divorce cases; after all, he says, how can you top this?

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