Will Donald Sterling’s legal maneuverings help him keep his basketball team?
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Yesterday, lawyers representing the embattled owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers made a formal motion to transfer his lawsuit to a Federal Court. The move comes before a local California probate court is to begin hearing arguments on Monday in a case to determine whether Donald Sterling is mentally incapacitated. If Sterling loses that battle then his estranged wife Shelly will assume control of the Sterling Family Trust which officially owns the team and be able to go ahead with its sale to Steve Ballmer.
At issue is whether or not the American federal medical privacy law, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, was violated when Donald Sterling’s personal medical information was revealed. His attorneys maintain that Sterling was unduly pressured into agreeing to certain medical examinations which were conducted as part of an attempt to find him incompetent.
Mr. Sterling’s lawyer Bobby Samini stated, “As we have stated repeatedly and from the onset of this matter, it is our contention that Donald’s privacy rights have been trampled by the release of his medical records. In our request for removal to federal court, we have reasserted that Donald’s rights under HIPAA and other federal privacy laws have been violated.”
But Shelly Sterling’s lawyer sees the motion as an act of desperation. He called it a “cowardly ploy” and that “Donald Sterling’s 11th-hour attempt to move the probate trial into the federal courts is a desperate act by a desperate man. This latest bad-faith maneuver on the eve of his reckoning is a cowardly ploy to do just one thing: Kill a record-setting $2 billion sale of the Clippers.”
He also cited the fact that Sterling had already waved any privacy claims with regards to his medical records under the family trusts’ terms.
Experts point out that this move is doomed to fail because under the statute cited private individuals do not have the right to sue in Federal court. Also, California State courts have already ruled in the past that they do have authority in such cases.
Next week’s proceedings will determine if Shelly Sterling properly complied with the terms of the Sterling Family Trust when she removed her husband as a co-trustee. Donald Sterling alleges that he is the victim of a fraud and that he is not mentally incompetent.
Another issued to be determined is if Mrs. Sterling had the authority to go ahead with the $2 billion sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer even after her husband formally revoked the trust agreement on June 9th.
For his part, Mr. Ballmer’s attorney Adam Streisand is making a motion in Federal court against Sterling’s motion. He said in a statement, “We will be filing emergency relief in federal court to undo this last desperate and frivolous attempt to block our trial from going forward Monday.”
Mr. Sterling’s mental health has come into question ever since he began a series of public rants after the controversy over his racist comments began. He appeared on cable news shows like CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 where he continued to make the same type of racist comments which got him into trouble in the first place while insulting basketball legend Magic Johnson.
After he was fined for racist comments recorded in a telephone conversation by a former girlfriend, Sterling was also banned for life from the NBA. The league then said that it would move to vote to force him to sell. This motion was expected to pass easily in spite of the fact that it would require the support of three quarters of all of the league’s owners.
Such a vote was mooted by Ballmer’s offer to buy the Clippers which was accepted by Shelly Sterling and is expected to win easy approval from the NBA.