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Donald Sterling is combative on stand, calls lawyer a ‘smartass’

Posted Jul 9, 2014 7:51 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A combative Donald Sterling testified on Tuesday that he can get more than $2 billion for the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers, and his own doctors have determined he is “razor sharp.”

Sterling frequently sparred with opposing lawyer Bert Fields in the probate hearing on Tuesday to determine whether he has the capacity to remain as a co-trustee of the trust that holds the Clippers. His estranged wife, Shelly Sterling, maintains she has the right as remaining trustee to sell the team to former Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. The Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.), the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Daily News have stories.

Donald Sterling called Fields a “smartass” and said he doubted that Fields had been practicing law for very long. (Fields graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1952, the Washington Post points out.)

“Tell me what you want to accuse me of,” Donald Sterling said to Fields. “Be a man. Stand up and be a man.” At another point, Donald Sterling told Fields, “You’re wrong. You’ve been wrong on every question today.” That prompted a question from Judge Michael Levanas, according to the Los Angeles Daily News. “How can he be wrong if he’s asking a question?” Levanas asked.

At another point, Levanas told Donald Sterling, "Go back to answering questions rather than making somewhat entertaining comments."

The New York Times says Donald Sterling “came across as someone in control,” despite his belligerence. The Los Angeles Daily News however, said Donald Sterling alternated between belittling Fields and saying he couldn’t recall the answer to his questions.

The Los Angeles Daily News reports that Donald Sterling’s hair, usually partly gray, was completely black for his court appearance. During a break, Shelly Sterling approached him and he pulled her down to his chair for a kiss.

During testimony, Donald Sterling said he trusted his wife but they were in court because “she's afraid of this big NBA that's trying to take everything away."

The two doctors who examined Donald Sterling at his wife’s behest both testified they believed he had early Alzheimer’s. Donald Sterling said he thought he was getting routine examinations for his 80th birthday.

Shelly Sterling sought the medical exams after Donald Sterling was banned for life from the National Basketball Association for making racist remarks caught on tape.

After the court hearing on Tuesday, Fields said the testimony showed Donald Sterling is mean and out of control. "Is this a guy you'd employ to sell hamburgers?" Fields asked.

Donald Sterling’s lawyer, Bobby Samini, said Donald Sterling is the same as he’s always been. “Out of all the lawyers that were in that room,” Samini said of his client, “if I needed a lawyer, I’d hire him.”

Prior coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Judge turns down Donald Sterling’s bid to remove case to federal court over medical privacy issue"

ABAJournal.com: "Lawyers in Donald Sterling case battle over removal to federal court for medical privacy issue"

ABAJournal.com: "Lawyer claims Donald Sterling threatened to take him out; judge denies injunction"

ABAJournal.com: "NBA reportedly accuses Sterling of trying to persuade Stiviano to lie about the infamous recording"

ABAJournal.com: "NBA owner Donald Sterling suspended for life, and experts say his legal options are limited"

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