Shelly Sterling’s suit against her husband opened in a California probate court yesterday.
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Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has Alzheimer’s disease, according to testimony given in a California probate court yesterday. Neurologist Dr. Meril Platzer, engaged by Sterling’s estranged wife Shelly, told the court that she feels Sterling has been suffering from the illness for at least the last three years.
Dr. Platzer made the assertion after having personally examined Mr. Sterling and reviewing his brain scans.
This was the first shot fired by Mrs. Sterling’s legal team in her bid to have her husband declared mentally incompetent. She initiated the court proceedings because her husband formally revoked the Sterling Family Trust agreement on June 9.
Mr. Sterling made that maneuver because he opposes his wife’s plan to sell his NBA franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.
The testimony came after Sterling’s lawyers made a motion last week to have a Federal court block the doctor from testifying. They did this based on the argument that her testimony violated Mr. Sterling’s medical privacy rights under federal law.
Sterling claims that he was tricked into cooperating with the examination and was not informed that the results could be used against him.
But the federal judge who heard the appeal, George Wu, denied that motion in a written ruling in which he said, “To the extent that medical records are relevant to the probate hearings, the probate court is more than capable of evaluating them and rendering a decision.”
This means that the local California court can make any determinations on the issue of privacy with regards to a person’s medical records without his having to seek redress in federal court.
Sterling himself was called to testify today, but he did not show up in court. His attorney explained his absence saying, “He was not here today because our expectation was that it would take some time to get a decision from the federal court and we didn’t want to have him come down here and put him on in this environment. I don’t think it was an unreasonable position to take.”
But Mrs. Sterling’s lawyer, Pierce O’Donnell, called on the probate court judge to issue a bench warrant for her husband. O’Donnell told the judge that he had sent a subpoena to Mr. Sterling’s other lawyer, Max Blecher, who was also absent from the courtroom.
Dr. Platzer did not complete her testimony yesterday. She is expected to take the stand again today, when she will be cross examined by Mr. Sterling’s attorney.
Donald Sterling is also expected to testify today. He will be questioned by the famous entertainment lawyer Bert Fields, who has been retained by Shelly Sterling. Fields was quoted in the New York Times as saying, “We were very anxious to get Mr. Sterling here to face the music. He’s the guy who keeps delaying, who keeps doing anything he can to keep his family from getting the $2 billion that they’re entitled to. Why? Just because of his ego.”
The decision by the California court is critical to the future of the Clippers’ sale to Steve Ballmer. The NBA’s board of governors is to meet July 15, to vote on ratifying the deal.
Donald Sterling at first gave his blessing to the sale of the Clippers, after he had been banned for life by the NBA for his taped racist comments. But Sterling expected the league to drop its $2 million fine which it had imposed on him before the ban.
Because the league has refused to do so, sterling is attempting to block the sale and is moving forward with a law suit against the NBA.