Donald Sterling Trial Delayed, as Clippers' Fate Hangs in the Balance

The trial deciding the fate of the Clippers sale has been delayed today, as Donald Sterling's lawyers push to move the case into a federal court.

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The trial deciding the fate of the Los Angeles Clippers has been delayed today, as Donald Sterling's lawyers push to move the case into a federal court. The trial comes after Shelly Sterling, Donald Sterling's estranged wife, sold the team to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, and Donald sued to block it.

Shelly Sterling was able to sell the team when doctors found her husband "mentally incapacitated," meaning he could be removed from the Sterling Family Trust in which the Clippers were held, and the team was sold without his explicit approval. Initially, Sterling seemed on board with the sale of the team, but had a change of heart soon after.

The sale was taken to court, as Donald Sterling's legal team argues the release of his medical records (which Shelly Sterling provided in her petition to approve the sale of the Clippers when he was removed from the trust) is a violation of federal law.

Shelly Sterling's legal team, which boasts infamous entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, is arguing that Donald Sterling waived his right to medical record privacy when the Clippers were placed in the ownership of the Sterling Family Trust. Shelly Sterling's lawyers are keen to keep the case within the Los Angeles Superior Court, rather than federal courts.  

The case was set to start this morning, however, the lawyers set about finding a federal judge, and instead, decided to postpone the case till this afternoon. Even if the judge approves the sale of the team outside of any medical record issues, the Clippers still might not be sold with great ease. Donald Sterling's lawyers have a second plan of attack to use in court. They have a June 9 letter revoking the Sterling Family Trust, which the judge would have to overrule to allow the Clippers to be sold — and might do so, as the sale was signed on May 29th.

Shelly Sterling's legal team plans to argue that the sales agreement is a valid contract, and that Steve Ballmer is an innocent party, who should not be punished in litigation. Attorney Randy Kessler told The Wire that this "innocence of buyer" may be integral to the judge's decision.

This entire case is on a deadline, as per the sales agreement, the sale must be completed by July 15. The agreement states that either Donald Sterling must consent in full to the sale, or that Shelly Sterling must receive a "a final and non-appealable order" from a court allowing for the sale. 

Shelly Sterling is dead set on bringing this case to a close before July 15. She has a legal team about a dozen deep, and one of her lead lawyers, Bert Fields, is already taking the fight to the public. Fields feels confident Donald Sterling is running from a decision that may not be in his favor, telling reporters outside the court today, "I even understand he left town. That's the kind of guy he is. He's willing to do anything rather than face the music."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.