By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Attorneys for Donald Sterling told a probate court judge on Monday that the Los Angeles Clippers co-owner had been duped into taking medical examinations that determined he lacked the mental capacity to have a say in the $2 billion sale of his team.
Attorney Maxwell Blecher, speaking during a pre-trial hearing in the legal battle for control of the National Basketball Association franchise, said Sterling had been “brought by misrepresentation” by his estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, to submit to the examinations last month.
Blecher and co-counsel Bobby Samini also asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas to allow them to present evidence of Sterling’s mental fitness in a bid to allow him to have a say in the family trust that owns the Clippers.
Levanas said he would rule on that request next week but cautioned that he believed the language in the trust that would install Shelly Sterling as its sole trustee if her husband was deemed mentally unfit was straightforward.
“I could do this trial in five minutes,” he said. “I don’t know why you need a court.”
Shelly Sterling has asked Levanas to confirm her as the controlling owner of the team after Donald Sterling vowed to block its $2 billion sale to former Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer.
Sterling, 80, was banned for life by the NBA in April and fined $2.5 million after privately taped racist remarks were leaked to celebrity website TMZ.com.
A four-day trial in Los Angeles Superior Court is set to begin on July 7 and offer a resolution ahead of the NBA owners’ July 15 vote on whether to approve the sale to Ballmer.
Donald Sterling’s lawyers have asked for the trial to be pushed back to August because a possible expert witness on dementia would be out of the country.
In May, neurologists examined Sterling and found that he suffers from dementia consistent with early Alzheimer’s disease, which would hand full control of the Clippers to his wife under a provision of the family’s trust.
Blecher said that a provision in earlier versions of the trust that allowed for a trustee to dispute such a move had been inadvertently omitted in the most recent trust, which was restated in December.
Sterling, who has owned the Clippers for 33 years, has also sued the NBA and its commissioner, Adam Silver, for $1 billion in damages.
(Reporting by Eric Kelsey; Editing by Eric Beech)