Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling (R) puts his hand over his face as he sits courtside with his wife Shelly (L) while the Clippers trail the Chicago Bulls in the second half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles in this December 30, 2011 file photo. Photo by Danny Moloshok, Reuters.
LOS ANGELES - A California judge said Monday he wanted more information before deciding if the dispute between Donald and Shelly Sterling over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers was a court matter.
Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas said Sterling family trust documents indicate that once he receives testimony of at least two doctors saying Donald Sterling is mentally incapacitated, the $2 billion sale of the club to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer can go ahead.
Donald Sterling, who was banned from the NBA and fined $2 million after racially charged remarks he made to a girlfriend became public in April, is trying to block the sale negotiated by his wife, with the case tentatively set to go to trial on July 7.
Shelly Sterling has argued that she was authorized to take control of the trust and arrange the sale after two doctors found her 80-year-old husband to be incapacitated -- and that the findings of those two doctors are enough for Levanas to rule on.
Attorneys for Donald Sterling, however, said a provision of the trust that allows outside evidence -- including rebuttal testimony from other doctors -- was inadvertently removed last year.
Shelly Sterling's lead attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said the provision had been removed with the approval of both Sterlings, noting: "It's too little, too late, to say 'Whoops.'"
Levanas said Monday he wants more briefs on that issue, as well as whether Donald Sterling should be granted a delay in the start of the trial.
In seeking a postponement until August 7, Donald Sterling's attorney Maxwell Blecher said an expert witness for his client would be in Europe until July 20.
Ballmer's attorney, Adam Streisand, suggested the neurologist's testimony could be provided by sworn deposition.
Shelly Sterling and Ballmer want the trial to proceed on schedule, so that the NBA Board of Governors would have a chance to vote on the Clippers sale at its July 15 meeting.
Shelly Sterling negotiated the sale of the Clippers on May 29 as the NBA was preparing to strip her husband of the team.
The $2 billion price tag is a record for an NBA franchise, well above the record $550 million paid for the Milwaukee Bucks in April.
Shelly Sterling has sought expedited action from the court, saying continued uncertainty about who controls the team will damage its value.
In court documents filed Monday, however, Donald Sterling argued that it is "equally or more likely that with the passage of time the Clippers will be worth more than the amount now being considered."
The wrangle between the Sterlings is not the only legal action precipitated by Donald Sterling's racist comments and the NBA's reaction to them.
He is also suing the league and commissioner Adam Silver for $1 billion, saying he can't be sanctioned for comments made in a private conversation that he says was illegally recorded.
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