Sterling hearing to determine control of family trust set for July 7

Seeking to push through the $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, attorneys for Shelly Sterling filed papers in a downtown court Wednesday, asking a judge to sign off on Sterling’s right to sell the franchise.

Sterling’s attorney Pierce O’Donnell filed a petition early Wednesday asking a judge to confirm that his client is the sole trustee of the Sterling Trust. O’Donnell argues Shelly’s husband Donald Sterling is “mentally incapacitated” and doesn’t have the authority to fight the sale.

Appearing in court to oppose the petition was Donald Sterling’s attorney Bobby Samini, who called assertions his client is mentally incapacitated “ridiculous.”

Just after noon on Wednesday, a judge set a hearing for July 7. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday that the league will likely vote to approve the sale during a Board of Governors meeting scheduled for July 15.

The face-off between the Sterlings’ attorneys marked the first time the couple have publicly battled over the Clippers, which they co-own through the trust. The NBA banned Donald Sterling for life and initiated proceedings of a Clippers sale after comments he made about African Americans were made public in April.

Before a forced sale could happen, Shelly Sterling agreed last month to sell the Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, a deal Donald Sterling is fighting, his attorney Samini said Wednesday. “He doesn’t want to sell the team,” Samini told reporters.

The couple’s fight over the control of the team appears to be coming down to the issue of mental health. O’Donnell’s central argument is that Donald Sterling was examined by health experts in May, and doesn’t have the capability to make decisions related to the trust.

O’Donnell told the Daily News the Sterlings made a deal in December 2013–before the scandal broke–that if either Donald or Shelly is found to be incapacitated, then he or she will not have the authority to make decisions related to the trust.

“With advancing age people are vulnerable to Alzheimer’s and dementia,” O’Donnell said. “And there has been a determination that that is what Donald Sterling is suffering from. and that the mental condition is not reversible.”
Samini said the doctors’ examination of Sterling in May was “inconclusive.”

Attorneys for the NBA also appeared Wednesday at the courthouse. The league gave tentative approval to the Ballmer deal last month.

Ballmer’s attorney, Adam Streisand, was also in the courthouse. Streisand said he wouldn’t be filing papers, but planned to ask the court to “bless Shelly Sterling’s authority to sell (the Clippers) on behalf of the the trust.”

Asked if Shelly and Donald are talking behind closed doors to avoid a court battle, Shelly Sterling’s attorney O’Donnell told the Daily News: “There are no negotiations.”

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