LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A preliminary hearing began Monday afternoon in the battle for ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Donald Sterling is fighting his estranged wife Shelly in a family trust probate case.
Earlier this month, Shelly Sterling entered an agreement to sell the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
The proposed sale comes after Donald Sterling’s racially-charged comments led to a lifetime ban by the NBA.
His attorneys have promised to fight the ban and the potential sale of the team.
Shelly, meanwhile, is asking the court to grant her full permission to sell the team, claiming mental incompetence on the part of her estranged husband.
The judge said that, rather than decided whether or not Sterling is mentally incapacitated or not, he will focus more specifically on whether the terms of the Sterling family trust are being followed properly.
“…we think that there are some serious issues with the trust document itself, with the way the examinations were done, particularly with our client’s medical records being disseminated to the entire world,” Donald Sterling attorney Bobby Samini said. “There are a lot of issues that need to be raised, and so, again, I think the judge was clear. He said ‘Hey, we need more input from both sides’ so that he can decide how long the trial is going to be, and what the scope will be.”
The attorney for Ballmer suggests that the prospective Clippers owner will consider himself satisfied if the judge never addresses the issue of Sterling’s mental state.
“(We are) not only satisfied, but we’re delighted that the judge got it, that this is a very simple issue,” attorney Adam Streisand said. “You know, this is a big, important deal, but the judge plays the cards, he doesn’t play the money. And he know we’ve got the cards, and the cards are (that) this trust says ‘you give me two doctors who say he doesn’t have (mental) capacity, we’re done, she’s the trustee, and she can enter into that deal.”
The attorneys also argue that, should the issue proceed beyond September 15, the NBA’s Board of Governors may be forced to take action after all.
The trial is set to begin on July 7.