Donald Sterling, in what an opposing lawyer called a ploy to stop his wife’s sale of the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer, sought to move the dispute to another court four days before a trial.
Sterling said in a filing today in federal court in Los Angeles that his wife violated his federal privacy rights by sending his medical information to two “handpicked” doctors before they examined him in May. Shelly Sterling used the doctors’ findings that he was incapacitated to have him removed as a co-trustee of the family trust that owns the basketball team.
“While Shelly Sterling and her team will claim that this is merely a tactic, we feel strongly that this important issue should be addressed by the federal court at this time,” Bobby Samini, Donald Sterling’s lawyer, said in an e-mailed statement.
The trial scheduled to start July 7 in probate court in Los Angeles was to determine whether Shelly Sterling followed requirements under the family trust that owns the Clippers to have her husband declared mentally incapacitated and remove him as co-trustee. Donald Sterling has claimed he was duped by his wife and the doctors.
The National Basketball Association had been preparing a forced sale of the team following the publication of secretly recorded racist comments Donald Sterling made to a girlfriend. It has said it may proceed with that plan if the transaction with Ballmer, who agreed to pay $2 billion for the franchise, isn’t completed by Sept. 15.
Pierce O’Donnell, Shelly Sterling’s lawyer, said in an e-mail that he expects that the case will be “promptly” returned to the probate court judge.
“This latest bad-faith maneuver on the eve of his reckoning is a cowardly ploy to do just one thing: Kill a record-setting $2 billion sale of the Clippers,” O’Donnell said. “For a man who vows to fight to preserve his dignity, Donald is showing very little of it with such a blatant underhanded tactic.”
Adam Streisand, a lawyer representing Ballmer, said in an e-mail that he will file an emergency request in federal court to have the case sent back to state court.
The sale case is In the Matter of the Sterling Family Trust, BP152858, Los Angeles County Superior Court. The federal court case is 14-CV-05216, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)