The NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers may be Lob City, but this time, it’s Judge Michael Levanas who finished with the slam dunk, ruling that embattled former Clippers owner Donald Sterling had no grounds to proceed with a lawsuit against the league.
Judge Levenas said that Donald Sterling could not stop his wife’s sale of the team to Microsoft mogul Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Donald Sterling’s suit named the NBA, NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and his wife Shelly Sterling, saying they “defrauded him and violated corporate law in attempting to sell the franchise to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.”
At issue in the case were three different points: whether Donald Sterling was removed from the process in a way consistent with the Sterling Family Trust, if a probate judge had jurisdiction in deciding issues for the trust when he removed Sterling as a co-trustee, and whether the court was allowed to let the sale proceed regardless of an appeal by Donald Sterling. Judge Levenas ruled in favor of Shelly Sterling on all three matters.
“This is a new day in Los Angeles and a new day for the Los Angeles Clippers,” said Pierce O’Donnell, Rochelle Sterling’s lead lawyer, outside the courthouse following the ruling. “And we want to go forward understanding that it was one woman who stood up against her husband, who had the courage to go to court and prevailed. So for the cynics out there, sometimes it works out O.K. This is a Hollywood ending.”
Adam Streisand, a lawyer for Steve Ballmer, added, “We expect that we’re going to continue to get grenades from all directions. But I’ve been confident from the beginning about how this is going to work out, and I’m still confident.”
The ruling as it stands is tentative, and the judge has 11 days to issue the final ruling in the case. Donald Sterling’s lawyers say that they will appeal the judge’s ruling. “This is one stage of a long war. This is a long battle. We had hoped for a different result but this is not the end,” said Bobby Samini, lawyer for Donald Sterling, outside the courthouse.