Trial will weigh if Sterling was properly ousted

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 11, 2014 at 8:35 pm •  Published: June 11, 2014
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A trial will be held next month to determine whether Donald Sterling, who opposes his estranged wife's planned sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, was properly removed as an administrator for the family trust that owns the team.

An attorney for Shelly Sterling went to probate court Wednesday to request a trial to confirm that as sole trustee she can proceed with what would be a record-breaking $2 billion sale to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

The development is the latest in a legal tug-of-war following the NBA's decision to ban Donald Sterling for life after racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. Donald Sterling is fighting the decision and suing the league for $1 billion.

The league has contended the comments were bad for business and damaged both the Clippers and the NBA.

The four-day trial was granted exceptionally quickly and will begin July 7. The deadline for the sale is July 15, which also is the date the NBA's owners hope to vote on whether they will approve the sale.

Court filings Wednesday indicated the NBA has set a hard deadline of Sept. 15. If the sale isn't completed then, the league will undertake proceedings to seize and sell the team on its own.

Donald Sterling's lawyer, Bobby Samini, left the courthouse without comment after a clerk announced the trial schedule. Neither Sterling was present.

"I just want to resolve this as quickly as possible," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told The Associated Press on Wednesday in Miami at an NBA Cares event.

The crux of the case will center on the question of whether the 80-year-old Donald Sterling is mentally competent to be a co-trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which gives him the authority to determine the team's future. According to the trust's terms, he can be ruled "mentally incapacitated" after being evaluated by two doctors, said Pierce O'Donnell, Shelly Sterling's attorney.

Shelly Sterling activated that clause in negotiating the deal with Ballmer and sole trustee. But Donald Sterling challenged the removal in a letter sent Monday to his wife's attorney said "any attempt to remove me as a Trustee of the Sterling Trust is invalid and illegal. Furthermore, any assertion that I am 'incapacitated'... is false and without merit."

According to court documents, two doctors examined Donald Sterling in May and concluded that he suffers from "mild cognitive impairment consistent with early Alzheimer's Disease" or some other forms of brain disease after examining brain scans and having him undergo other tests.

"In my opinion he is substantially unable to manage his finances and resist fraud and undue influence, and is no longer competent to act as trustee of his trust," concluded Dr. James E. Spar, who is affiliated with the division of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA.

Sterling voluntarily went to the doctors at the request of his wife, according to a person with knowledge of the proceedings who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the details publicly.

A third doctor reviewed the two doctors' findings as well as Sterling's brain scans and concurred with their conclusions that he "lacks the capacity to function as trustee."

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