Tomorrow, the McCourts square off for the first time in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The court will hear Jamie's arguments as to why she should be reinstated to her position as Dodgers CEO. Her lawyers will paint her as the "face of the Dodgers," vital to the club's ongoing operations. She may also contend that the Dodgers are being harmed by her absence, and thus the failure to reinstate her might devalue a contested asset in the divorce. Jamie will initially seek to have the Dodgers' filings, including those prepared by Frank's lawyer, excluded from the hearing.
Frank and the Dodgers will do their best to portray Jamie's role with the team as merely ornamental. Moreover, they will suggest that to reinstate her at this time would be detrimental to club operations, as the rift between Jamie and Dodgers brass is just too great to overcome. This side will also oppose Jamie's motion to exclude the Dodgers from the hearing, pointing out that the Dodgers have information relevant to the proceeding and stand to be affected by its outcome.
What's at stake?
In the short term, not a whole lot. While Jamie has to ask to be reinstated, I highly doubt she wants to be. Don't take this to mean tomorrow isn't important, though. There are very significant long-term implications:
- The battle for the Dodgers begins tomorrow. While not vital to Jamie's claim to half the club, persuading the court that she had an actual role in the organization--and an important one at that--sets Jamie up very nicely for the ownership dispute to come. If Frank can establish that Jamie's role was for show, his claim to sole ownership gains momentum.
- The stage will be set for the spousal maintenance fight. Remember that Jamie's demands are dependent on her role with the organization. If she's not reinstated, we'll be poised for a bitter clash on December 1 about whether her maintenance award should include pay for her former position. Incidentally, the court may use tomorrow as an opportunity to admonish Jamie's legal team for asking for money she's already been paid--namely, the $500,000 Frank's given her to cover the remainder of her '09 salary. Then again, it's California, so maybe not.
- The role the Dodgers will play in the divorce might begin to take shape. While a divorce is an inherently personal sort of thing, so much of the acrimony concerns the club. Ownership is contested, wrongful termination is (almost) alleged, and (arguably improper) benefits and perquisites of employment/ownership are sought.
So what's gonna happen?
The Dodger Divorce prediction is that Jamie will not be reinstated. The Dodgers will be allowed to participate in the litigation to a degree. Losing the battle for reinstatement, Jamie will ask for a temporary maintenance award to tide her over until the December 1 hearing. If the court doesn't think that the half-mil from Frank to cover her salary is enough, my guess is that she'll get something at or below the low end of her demands; think $300,000ish.
Then again, this is California we're talking about, and crazy stuff happens.
A final thought.
The McCourts might have more at stake tomorrow than they've considered. As Craig Calcaterra notes, the McCourts' best chance to keep the Dodgers is probably to arrive at "some kind of truce as soon as possible that would keep joint ownership to some degree." If things get as bitter in court tomorrow as they've been in the filings and newspapers thus far, that would seem nearly impossible. If you're a member of the majority (anti-McCourt) party, root for fireworks.---