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It’s hardly total recall for Frank McCourt at divorce trial

Day 2 of the Dodgers trial, and Frank McCourt is called to the witness stand and asked to state his name. There is palatable tension in the air as he pauses — before getting it right.

But it seems to be the only thing he can recall for the next 45 minutes.

“I don’t know” what happened, he says, “I can’t remember,” he replies, and “I couldn’t say with comfort” how long a meeting went. It’s like Page 2 is interviewing him.

McCourt is under oath, and what a great opportunity, but attorney David Boies is fixated on a marriage property agreement instead of asking McCourt about Manny Ramirez’s departure.

“That’s tomorrow; I’ll get it in,” Boies promises later.

There are no bombshells, although McCourt appears shellshocked every time Jamie McCourt’s attorney fires a question at him.

So far it sounds as if he has been well-coached to say nothing, or unbeknownst to spectators he recently banged his head and is suffering from amnesia.

It will be interesting when Jamie follows him to the witness stand to see whether she’s more like her husband than she would care to admit right now.

She sits a few feet away from Frank as he testifies, wearing a very nice creme mint, two-piece outfit, jacket on for the morning but bare shoulders late in the day.

She stares at her husband of 30 years, probably wondering why the poor guy is apparently wearing the same tie he wore a day earlier.

The day begins with Judge Scott Gordon calling the McCourts forward to be sworn in again, having them say “I do” together for a second consecutive day. It makes you wonder whether it’s some kind of private judicial family law joke, everyone going through a divorce reminded of the vows they took earlier.

If not, then what does the judge think — they took a shower and the oath got washed away? How about mixing it up and just mentioning Roger Clemens’ name to both of them?

Everyone who is here is waiting for Frank to testify, but the McCourts’ estate lawyer, Leah Bishop, is still on the stand and Frank’s attorney, Steve Susman, is cross-examining her.

Nothing like listening to two lawyers quibble back and forth.

Had they passed out cyanide capsules to everyone in the courtroom as Susman spent hour after hour racking up attorney fees with Bishop, there would have been only dead bodies left by the time McCourt got the call.

An hour into Susman’s back-and-forth with Bishop, he gets her to admit she’s a lawyer. I’m told they don’t allow laughing in the courtroom, but it’s so difficult at times.

I sat beside Susman at the tail end of the lunch break and told him no one was here to watch him go at it with the estate lawyer.

“I’ve got a column to write,” I tell him, “and I’m waiting for McCourt to take the stand.”

“What am I supposed to do?” Susman says.

“Sit down,” I suggest.

He says he will take only an hour to finish. He takes two, the judge every second or so seemingly stealing a glance at the clock on the wall, and he doesn’t have a column deadline.

During all the hemming and hawing, Bishop says the first time she meets McCourt they have a three-hour meeting and he cries.

She never says why, Susman never asks, but I believe it has something to do with the contract he gave Juan Pierre.

Later Susman presses Bishop on a different subject and says, “Tell me again because I don’t want to get it right,” and that’s a lawyer for you — before correcting himself and saying, “don’t want to get it wrong.”

He also admits, “I’ve confused myself.” A day earlier, Jamie’s attorney, Dennis Wasser, says the same thing, and if these guys are considered the best in the profession, what about all these other suits walking the courthouse hallways? How confused are they? And what kind of help are their clients getting?

As for what everyone learned here on Day 2, besides the fact the judge took a 1-hour 50-minute lunch, Jamie’s e-mail name is “swimmer,” while Frank’s is “malibu.” It almost sounds as if they should go together.

As for arguments and who is winning and losing, it all revolves around the marriage property agreement, this trial re-enforcing the idea it’s better to have almost nothing and therefore need no marriage property agreement.

To hear Frank’s side, it’s all about Jamie’s nest egg and how she didn’t want any creditors taking a bite out of it because her husband couldn’t be counted on to be successful. It must’ve been a real hoot living with someone expecting you to fail.

To hear Jamie’s side, it’s all about the changes made to their property agreement after it had been signed and notarized, thereby making it invalid and entitling her to half of the Dodgers. It must have been interesting living with someone who felt he was at the top of his game when borrowing money.

“As long as I had known them,” Bishop says, “they bickered constantly.”

Obviously, they’ve taken it to another level, McCourt due back on the stand Wednesday, giving Boies another chance to ask McCourt while under oath if he will pay Scott Podsednik the going rate to keep him and whether he’s going to raise ticket prices.

When he’s done, it will be Jamie’s turn, and I wonder what she will be wearing for such an occasion.

I was scheduled to be off Wednesday, but I called the boss and volunteered to work for nothing.

t.j.simers@latimes.com


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