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Donald Sterling wants L.A. Clippers trial moved to federal court

By Steve Almasy, CNN
updated 11:49 AM EDT, Fri July 4, 2014
Lawyers for Donald Sterling filed paperwork to have the probate court trial over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers moved to federal court.
Lawyers for Donald Sterling filed paperwork to have the probate court trial over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers moved to federal court.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lawyers for Donald Sterling filed paperwork with a federal court
  • Right now the case is in a state probate court
  • The trial to decide if Shelly Sterling had the right to sell the Clippers was to begin Monday
  • That might be delayed -- or changed -- depending on how the federal judge rules

(CNN) -- With a probate court trial over the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers scheduled to begin Monday, lawyers for Donald Sterling filed paperwork Thursday to have the matter moved to federal court.

Donald Sterling's estranged wife, Shelly, is asking a probate judge to approve an agreement she reached with billionaire Steve Ballmer to sell the NBA team.

For years, she and her husband had equal shares in the franchise through a family trust, but Shelly Sterling negotiated a deal in late May to sell the team after two doctors declared her husband was mentally incapacitated.

Donald Sterling's lawyers filed a notice of removal in U.S. District Court in central California requesting the change of courts.

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Shelly Sterling's attorney called Thursday's legal maneuvering 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," Pierce O'Donnell said.

Donald Sterling's court filing says a probate court is not the proper jurisdiction for the case.

His lead attorney said his privacy rights have been violated.

"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," attorney Bobby Samini said. "In our request for removal to federal court, we have reasserted that Donald's rights under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and other federal privacy laws have been violated."

O'Donnell called the claim "preposterous," saying that Donald Sterling, who is a lawyer, authorized release of his medical records as a term of the trust.

Ballmer's attorney, Adam Streisand, said in a statement that he would file for emergency relief in federal court to block the move, which he called frivolous.

He predicted it would delay Monday's trial as they waited for a federal judge to respond to their request. A message on the District Court's website said it would be closed Friday.

Sterling hires firms to investigate NBA
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver

Donald Sterling, 80, has been embroiled in controversy since a recording of a conversation with his friend V. Stiviano was posted online in late April. The recording included a series of racist comments.

Sterling's comments, first posted on TMZ, sparked outrage among NBA players, executives and fans. NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Sterling $2.5 million and banned him for life from the NBA.

The NBA's board of governors, representatives from each of the 30 ownership groups, is scheduled to meet July 15 and could approve a sale then if the legal aspects of the deal are sorted out.

For the team to be sold, either Donald Sterling would have to sign a binding term sheet or a court would have to agree Shelly Sterling acted legally in selling the team.

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CNN's Lindy Hall and Rosalina Nieves contributed to this report.

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