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Sterling Delays Trial over Clippers' Sale, Files Fed Lawsuit

Donald Sterling contends his privacy rights were violated by the disclosure of his medical records to his wife and the public.

File graphic courtesy the Los Angeles Clippers.
File graphic courtesy the Los Angeles Clippers.

Originally posted at 8:45 a.m. July 7, 2014. Edited with new details.

The legal battle over whether Shelly Sterling has authority under a family trust to sell the Los Angeles Clippers was put on hold today, with Donald Sterling filing papers in federal court contending his privacy rights were violated by the disclosure of his medical records to his wife and the public.

A four-day non-jury trial in Los Angeles Superior Court was set to begin this morning to determine if Shelly Sterling had acted within her authority when she negotiated a $2 billion deal to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

But Judge Michael Levanas said he could not move forward with the case in light of Donald Sterling's federal court filing, and delayed the case until late morning to see if a U.S. district judge would weigh in on the matter.

However, attorneys for Shelly Sterling, who was in Superior Court this morning, said they have filed a motion of their own to return the case to Levanas.

Shelly Sterling's attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, agreed with Donald Sterling's attorneys that the trial could not start without a ruling from the federal court, saying the case was in a "procedural limbo" for now.

However, O'Donnell said he was unhappy with the decision by Donald Sterling's attorneys to bring the federal court motion.

"I must express our profound objection to this filing," O'Donnell said.

Attorneys on both sides agreed last week that the Superior Court proceedings will focus on whether Donald Sterling was induced into undergoing mental examinations by two doctors without being told the reason.

But there will be no rebuttal testimony from Donald Sterling's attorneys challenging the findings by the two physicians that he was mentally incapacitated, which his wife maintains gave her authority to sell the team.

The trial also will deal with whether Sterling's June 9 revocation of the family trust had any impact on the proposed sale. Shelly Sterling's lawyers maintain the $2 billion offer from Ballmer was already accepted by her and that her husband's actions were meaningless.

Levanas had earlier denied a request by Donald Sterling's attorneys for a short delay in starting the trial. Lawyers for Shelly Sterling and Ballmer maintain that a ruling by Levanas is needed by July 15 so the NBA can consider the proposed sale, in hopes of having the deal finalized by September.

Donald Sterling was banned from the NBA for life earlier this year following the public release of recorded conversations between him and companion V. Stiviano. Sterling is heard on the tape disparaging Stiviano for having her picture taken with black people and telling her not to bring them to Clippers games.

The league announced plans to take action against Sterling to force him to sell the team. But Sterling has since filed a lawsuit against the NBA, alleging violations of his civil rights. He has contended that he was recorded illegally while making emotional remarks during a "lovers' quarrel" with Stiviano.

--City News Service


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