Earlier this year, two doctors determined L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling was mentally incapacitated. This allowed Shelly Sterling to take complete control of the Sterling Family Trust, in which their NBA team was held, and sell it outright. She sold to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, a transaction that Donald is now disputing.
Now, Sterling is coming back with his own diagnosis. Dr. Jeffery Cummings, a neurologist and dementia specialist, examined Sterling for over an hour and determined Sterling does not have dementia, and is fully mentally stable. Cumming has agreed to testify on Sterling's behalf.
The test was arranged by one of Sterling's attorneys, which brings up the question of the validity of the diagnosis. The Wire spoke with attorney Randy Kessler, who offered his expert opinion: "A doctor with a good reputation is not going to forfeit their reputation to say what the client wants. It is not financially worth it." However, Kessler notes that there may have been multiple doctors consulted. "What we don’t know is how many doctors [his lawyers] had [Sterling] meet with," says Kessler. "They may have had him tested by five to ten doctors and the one that came back positive, the answers they wanted, is the one they decided to share. The others might have said otherwise, but there's an attorney client and a doctor client privilege, so they don’t have to disclose that."
In the July 7 trial, Shelly Sterling will ask a court to uphold the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer. Donald Sterling's lawyers are expected to ask for a postponement of the case. This new information is greatly beneficial to Donald Sterling's argument. Kessler notes, "This helps him oppose the sale. The sale was done without his consent because he was mentally unable to. He can come back now and there can be a challenge on it."
However, challenging the sale will be an uphill battle because of the innocence of the buyer. "The problem for [Donald] Sterling is the buyer; they were an innocent buyer. This is not a get-out-of-jail free card. This does not get him off the hook. If at the time of the sale everything was appropriate, it is not fair to the buyer to ask him to look over his shoulder. He didn’t take advantage of his condition."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.