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Judge: Family trust clear about removing Sterling

By Linda Deutsch

LOS ANGELES (AP) - With a $2 billion sale of the Los Angeles Clippers hanging in the balance, a judge suggested Monday that the terms of a family trust are clear enough to remove Donald Sterling as a trustee and allow his estranged wife to sell the team without his consent.

At one point, Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said the Sterlings' trust agreement is so unambiguous that "I could decide this case in five minutes."

At the center of the volatile court battle are reports from three doctors who examined the 80-year-old Sterling and found he shows symptoms of early Alzheimer's disease and dementia. His lawyers argued he should be able to call his own experts at a trial set for July 7.

The judge said the trust agreement provides that if two doctors examined Sterling and found he lacked the capacity to manage his own affairs, he would be removed as a trustee. There is no provision to contest the decision, he said.

"I don't know why you want the court involved at all," he told lawyers.

But by the end of a hearing in probate court, Levanas agreed to allow lawyers to submit written arguments and scheduled a hearing for June 30 ahead of the trial.

Sterling's wife, Shelly, is trying to sell the team to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer, whose offer will expire on Sept. 15. NBA owners are to meet July 15 to vote on the deal.

Shelly Sterling struck the potentially record-breaking deal with Ballmer after Donald Sterling's racist remarks to a girlfriend were recorded and publicized. The NBA moved to oust him as team owner, fined him $2.5 million and banned him for life.

Donald Sterling has sued the NBA for $1 billion in federal court, alleging that the league violated his constitutional rights, committed breach of contract and violated antitrust laws. Sterling has also hired four private investigation firms to dig up potential dirt on the NBA's former and current commissioner and its owners for the case.

In court Monday, Sterling's lawyers, Maxwell Blecher and Bobby Samini, said he is entitled to be examined by his own expert who would testify. They then insisted they needed a substantial delay in the trial because their expert is going to be gone for weeks speaking at a conference.

Shelly Sterling's lawyer, Pierce O'Donnell, said it was a ploy to stop the sale. If the sale isn't completed by Sept. 15, the NBA could seize the team and put it up for auction, he said.

"Delay is the enemy of this deal," O'Donnell told reporters outside court. "Mr. Sterling wants to kill the deal."

Samini, Donald Sterling's lawyer, confirmed that. He told reporters: "Mr. Sterling is not in favor of selling the team. He never planned on selling the team. "

The judge ordered lawyers to file legal briefs beginning Wednesday.

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esword2020 June 23 2014 at 11:46 PM

you no what donald sterling is not my favorite person,but i think this is wrong.The things he said was very bad but he has a right to say them.free speech.nobody has a right to take the team.just saying

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3 replies
Wonderful Gray June 24 2014 at 12:04 AM

Seems like his lawyers are out to get as much as they can.

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2 replies
Jamster Wonderful Gray June 24 2014 at 1:45 AM

HELLO.....we're talking about lawyers here, aren't we?

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ganderrrr Wonderful Gray June 24 2014 at 8:20 PM

So are Donald's lawyers.

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vondiamant June 24 2014 at 12:42 AM

I still say the team is being extorted from Sterling. Shame on ALL of you involved in this. I can only hope that what goes around comes around for the bunch of you.

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5 replies
iplumeria June 24 2014 at 12:42 AM

What exactly did he say that was racist? If you look at the lyrics of some of these hip hop songs, you will find plenty of racism.

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3 replies
jshedl10411 June 24 2014 at 12:24 AM

Another pompous Jew judge shoot's from the hip and makes a stupid statement

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6 replies
ferrariqx June 24 2014 at 12:29 PM

As I read through the comment section, I can't help but be amused of the armchair attorneys, judges, doctors, and 1st Amendment "experts." It's hard to know where to start.

1. DS and the Clippers are part of a "private club." 1st Amendment rights do not apply there. Guess what? They don't apply at your place of employment either.

2. DS is not being punished for what he said. He's being kicked out of the club (NBA) because his sentiments are not in keeping with the core beliefs of the club. Can you imagine being a key member of the NRA and think guns should be outlawed?

3. Donald and Shelly Sterling at a living trust. They were the trustees (controllers) of the trust. The trust owned the Clippers. When Donald Sterling was found to be suffering from dementia by TWO DOCTORS, that satisfied the provision in the trust to have him removed as one of the co-trustees. That meant, he no longer could make any decisions of the assets the trust owned. Shelly sells the team.

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3 replies
poker25005 June 24 2014 at 3:31 AM

The lawyer proved that he is as incompetent as Donald Sterling. If there is no provision in the trust that allows Donald Sterling to challenge his removal after examination by the doctors why is he even allowing the attorney's to submit written arguments? This is a waste of time and taxpayer money.

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1 reply
Sandy poker25005 June 24 2014 at 9:59 AM

This goes beyond the trust. If a person is declared legally incompetent, that encompasses a lot of his/her rights. He has every right to hire his own experts and have a trial. It is the judge who is incompetent as a judge.

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mr41005 June 23 2014 at 11:53 PM

Still say, if he is mentally incapacitated, then he is not responsible for what he said. He shouldn't be made liable only when it is convenient

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1 reply
g23you2012 mr41005 June 24 2014 at 2:26 AM

What he said has nothing to do with this. It is his mental competence being considered.

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imaprod June 23 2014 at 11:53 PM

This guy seems ok to me. I'd be checking out the wife's wiring.

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4 replies
humblebee2011 June 24 2014 at 8:49 AM

Shelley Sterling jumped on the band wagon with the NBA and the girlfriend; if Shelley already knew about the 'dementia etc'; why didn't she act way before this story broke-out. --Something sinister with this timeline; Sterling's legal team needs to keep digging away at all culprits who have a hand in this!

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