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Separated McCourts both claim ownership of the Dodgers

Frank McCourt's attorney says his client owns the team outright. Jamie McCourt's attorney says she owns 50% of the franchise. The dispute could lead to a prolonged ownership battle.

By Bill Shaikin and Harriet Ryan

In what is shaping up to be a classic celebrity battle, the attorneys for Frank and Jamie McCourt volleyed contradictory claims of who really owns the Dodgers just one day after the couple's marriage separation was announced.

The looming showdown confirmed what many Dodger fans fear, that the team could be embroiled in a prolonged ownership battle that may affect the running of the club.

Dennis Wasser, who represents Jamie McCourt, on Thursday rebutted claims that Frank McCourt is the club's sole owner.

"We disagree," Wasser said. "We are confident that, if the ownership issue must be adjudicated, the Dodgers will be determined to be community property, owned 50% by each of the McCourts."

But Marshall Grossman, who represents Frank McCourt, said he has documents to back up his assertion that his client is the sole owner.

"Anyone reading them will readily see that Mr. McCourt's ownership is 100%," said Grossman, who declined to release the documents.

Wasser said he was unaware of any such documents and said he knew of no reason why California's community property law would not apply.

"Everything I've seen leads me to believe it's 50-50, whether there's a document or not," Wasser said.

All this transpired as the Dodgers prepared to play the first game of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies won Game 1, 8-6.

Major League Baseball lists Frank McCourt as the Dodgers' "control person." But a high-ranking baseball source said Thursday that the couple presented themselves together for the approval of Commissioner Bud Selig when they bought the team in 2004.

"I firmly believe each of them is going to try to keep the team," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation. "I think it's going to be pretty ugly."

Neither Frank nor Jamie McCourt has spoken publicly about their separation, instead leaving comments up to some of the biggest legal names in town.

Grossman is a high-powered business litigator whose clients have included AIG, Apple Computers and such celebrities as singer Mariah Carey, filmmaker Steven Spielberg and writer J.K. Rowling. Frank McCourt also has retained veteran family law attorney Manley Freid, who represented Tom Arnold in his divorce from comedian Roseanne Barr, battled Lee Iacocca in court on behalf of his third wife, and helped Janet Jackson's former husband, Rene Elizondo, try to challenge a prenuptial agreement.

Jamie McCourt has hired Wasser, among the most sought-after defense attorneys for the city's rich and famous. Wasser's client list reads like the front row of the Academy Awards audience: Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin and Stevie Wonder, to name a few. He has represented athletes, including baseball player David Justice and former Dodgers star Steve Garvey, as well as billionaires Ron Burkle and Kirk Kerkorian.

The case could turn on whether the McCourts' ownership of the team is in any way related to their ownership of residential real estate.

In the five years since they moved to Los Angeles, the McCourts have purchased four properties in upscale areas. In 2004, they bought two adjacent residences in Holmby Hills, near the Playboy Mansion. They added a beachfront home in Malibu in 2007 and, in the following year, bought the bungalow next door.

Within a month of each purchase, Frank McCourt filed papers that identified the homes as "the sole and separate property" of his wife and giving up any claim to them. Together, the properties in Jamie McCourt's name are valued at close to $80 million, according to county real estate records.

Hillel Chodos, an attorney who has handled divorces involving wealthy individuals, said of the property transfers: "On the face of it, they had an agreement that they would buy the properties and she would own them.

"Maybe she gave up something else in exchange. That is what usually happens, but you can't be sure," said Chodos, who is not involved in the McCourt case.

Lynn Soodik, a Santa Monica family law attorney also not involved with the McCourts, said the property transfers raise the possibility that the McCourts have an agreement that could make community property law moot.

"I would imagine they do," Soodik said.

With the possible exception of poor credit, she said, there would be "no other reason" for Frank McCourt to transfer the properties, except as part of an agreement. It is uncertain whether any such agreement would determine who controls the team.

For now, Dennis Mannion, the Dodgers' president, reports directly to Frank McCourt.

Yet Jamie McCourt remains the Dodgers' chief executive officer and plans to continue in that role and retain an ownership interest in the team, Wasser said.

And then more immediate matters are at hand, such as the ongoing negotiations for a long-term contract extension for General Manager Ned Colletti. The Dodgers are planning to discuss new deals with coaches and executives whose contracts expire in December.

"We've got business as usual here," said Josh Rawitch, the Dodgers' vice president of communications.

Wasser said he was disappointed that the matter has become so public.

"Jamie McCourt had desired just to focus on the Dodgers' success in postseason play," he said.

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The first paragraph of a film review from this week's New Yorker Magazine...

The new Ricky Gervais film, “The Invention of Lying,” postulates a world in which no one has ever told a lie. We know this because the hero, Mark Bellison, played by Gervais, tells us all about it in an opening voice-over. It is the first, small warning sign that the movie may not be firing right: what level of confidence can you have in your own comic device—the conceit that will power the whole story—if you feel the need to explain it before the drama gets under way? One delight of “The Truman Show” was the onus it placed on viewers from the start, both daring us and trusting us to work out, at our own speed, just what the hell was going on in that spotless seaside town. No such joy from Gervais, who wrote and directed the new film with Matthew Robinson, and who seems to have mislaid the T-shirt that is handed to every first-time movie director—the one that reads “Show, Don’t Tell.”
If your grade-school education was anything like mine, lessons on parallelograms, subject-verb agreement and neutrons were met with a chorus of whiny students asking, "When will we ever need to know this?"

I admit, many years later I still haven't tapped into my algebraic knowledge of a parabola, but other subjects have played important roles. Writing lessons, for example, have played a large role in my life, and not just because of my line of work.

Between e-mails, texts and Tweets, our society spends a lot of time communicating via the written word. We spend more time writing in our professional and personal lives than we probably imagined we would back in school. What you may not realize is that these written exchanges can boost your career or hinder it, depending on how you treat them.

Write your way to a job
Todd Henning recently began an internship with a public relations firm, and he's quickly discovering that his writing abilities are helping his fledgling career. In the few months he's been interning, he's seen his list of responsibilities grow.

"Right after I was hired, they told me it was largely due to the writing samples that I had given them during the interview process, and they had stopped considering others because of their writing samples," Henning says.

Of course, if you're applying for a position where writing samples are part of the application process, you're probably not surprised that composition skills pay off. But Rebecca West, interior designer for Rivalee Design, recently landed a position because of her writing skills. Not what you'd expect for someone whose job relies on a creative eye rather than a way with a pen.

West met with a potential client to discuss a bathroom remodel, and she didn't think the meeting was a success. She didn't think she connected to one homeowner and the other homeowner was unable to attend.

"I always send a follow-up thank you after my first consultation, but this time I took it a step further and composed a full letter describing to the client how I thought I could best help in their project, and offering to meet with them once more," West says. "I didn't really expect anything to come of it, but several days later they called and asked to set up another time to meet.  During my second visit the second homeowner mentioned my letter, thanked me for it, and said it brought 'tears to his eyes' -- and no, he wasn't being facetious."

After the second meeting, all three parties decided the homeowners didn't need a designer to execute their remodeling plans, but that didn't bother West.

"From them I had two business referrals, and I was able to refer them to a contractor of mine who in turn got the remodeling work," West says.

Employers care
Lilia Fallgatter, an author and e-learning consultant, has enough experience as a hiring manager in higher education to know that writing skills affect every career.

"How you write speaks volumes about you," Fallgatter stresses. "Incorrect grammar, spelling and usage make a bad impression and can affect your credibility on the job. With the advent of text messaging, instant messaging and social networking sites such as Twitter, more people are abandoning the rules of writing. The use of abbreviations, failing to use capitalization and punctuation is extremely informal and does not translate well to the professional setting."

Fallgatter is quick to point out that, all things being equal, in a showdown between two job applicants, she'll choose the better writer.

A reputation as a good writer has paid off for Mel White, vice president of marketing and business development at Classic Exhibits, a firm that specializes in providing equipment to trade show vendors and exhibitors. He says effective communication skills have enhanced his professional image in ways he didn't expect.

"I'm no genius, no superstar -- but strong writing skills have always made me a valuable asset," he says. In business school, he frequently earned higher marks than his classmates because of his writing abilities, a trend that carried over to his business life. "Regardless of my position, I've become the default writer and editor everywhere I've worked. Writing skills matter. For some odd reason, people think you are smarter and more competent."

This phenomenon has held true for other professionals, including Dustin Weeks, author of "Lessons From a Recovering Worker Bee."

"While working abroad I was responsible for making sure that all written communications for our American English-speaking clients were grammatically correct," Weeks explains. As a result, he became the resident expert on English and North American business strategies. "I was often asked strategic questions about how something should be presented to our North American clients because I had command of the English language and was from North America."

How to make writing work for you
All this said, strong writing skills can lose you a job if you're not careful. If your command of English makes you the go-to editor for the office, you still need to temper your criticisms a bit. If your eagerness to mark up a paper with red ink outweighs your desire to help your colleagues and boss, you'll appear arrogant.

With that in mind, here are some tips to help make the most of your written communications at work:

· Proofread, proofread, proofread
Typos, slang and bad grammar send a negative signal whether you're a job seeker, new employee or a supervisor. Look over your own writing and if it's an important document, ask someone else to review it, too.

·Even e-mails deserve attention
All business communications should be treated with some level of professionalism. Although not every e-mail is a letter to the CEO, don't forget that these messages can be forwarded to anyone. Plus, in a culture where e-mails are more prevalent than face-to-face conversations, your writing is the face of your professional image.

· Pick your battles
If you're a great writer, don't become the office grammarian who constantly corrects the usage of "who/whom." Congratulations on your knowledge of "The Elements of Style," but being known as a know-it-all can overshadow your knowledge.

· Context matters
Part of being a good writer is knowing how to communicate effectively to your audience. A white paper should be more formal than a personal message to a colleague you know well. If you treat every correspondence with too much formality, that will be more noticeable than the content. So sometimes "Hi" is a better way to open a message than "Salutations."

Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues.

Copyright 2009 All rights reserved. The information contained in this article may not be published, broadcast or otherwise distributed without prior written authority.
In an unpublished opinion by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the court awarded counsel a $100 sanction for a seriously messed up citation. The case is Espitia v. Fouche 314 Wis.2d 507, 758 N.W.2d. 224.

FN5. Counsel for Espitia cites to an unpublished case assertedly upholding a stipulated damages clause due to the difficulty of ascertaining "the exact amount of income certain vending machines would produce." The cite provided is "Buellesbach v. Roob, 2005 AP 160 (Ct.App.Dist.1).

Buellesbach indeed is unpublished but it has nothing to do with liquidated damage clauses or vending machines; it is a misrepresentation caswe brought by newlyweds against a wedding photographer. Also, "2005 AP 160" is the docket number which we discovered only after reaching a dead end at 2005 WI App 160, 285 Wis.2d 472, 702 N.W.2d 433.

At last we locate the unpublished case that addresses the subject matter for which counsel cited Bullesbach: Stansfield Vending, Inc. v. Osseo Truck Travel Plaza, LLC, 2004, WI App 201, 267 Wis.2d 280. Different name, Different Citation, Different district, but, as promised, UNPUBLISHED.

It is a violation of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.19 (1) (e) to provide citations which do not conform to the Uniform System of Citation and of Wis. Stat. Rule 809.23(3) to cite to unpublished opinions. One reason may be that they can be time-consuming to locate.

A $100 penalty is imposed against Espitia's counsel. See Hagen v. Gulrud, 151 Wis. 2d. 1, 8, 442