Like I said last week, it’s a bit of sucker’s game to try to predict an ultimate ruling in a case based on what a court-appointed mediator proposes. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to try to predict such things. And there is one fact in the proposed settlement, reported by Bill Shaikin, that I find to be pretty interesting:
As the mediator in the Dodgers’ divorce case prepared his settlement proposal, he consulted not only with Frank and Jamie McCourt but with representatives from Bingham McCutchen, the firm that employs the lawyer whose actions could determine who owns the team. The mediation process is confidential, but analysts said the mediator likely invited Bingham to help fund a settlement now rather than risk a potentially more costly malpractice suit later.
The malpractice, you’ll recall, is related to Frank’s lawyer switching out the exhibit to the post-nuptial agreement that had Jamie getting the Dodgers and switching in the one that showed her being cut out. Which, I still believe, is what the parties intended, by the way. Problem is, if you were going to try and unfairly screw Jamie out of her stake in the Dodgers, that would be an excellent, albeit obvious way to do it, and the court is going to have a hard time overlooking that behavior. If you want to make such clerical changes, you get both parties on the horn and have them re-execute the deal. You don’t pull the old switcheroo.
If the court ultimately rules for Jamie, Frank will have a righteous malpractice suit against the Bingham firm as a result of all of this. By having them kick in money now, as the proposed settlement does, it softens that blow and heads off an ugly litigation in which many of the same issues that happened in the divorce case would be dredged up. No one wants that.
So the question is this: does the mediator — who is himself a judge, by the way — know that the judge presiding over the case is going to rule for Jamie and wants to try and wrap it all up now? Does he merely suspect it? Or is this just a belt-and-suspenders kind of thing?
I have no idea. I do know this, though: if someone tells me that they want to make my future malpractice case against my lawyers easier, I’m not going to feel very good about the case I actually have pending at the moment. Frank, I would assume, is not a happy man at the moment.