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Sterling v. Sterling 10: The Reboot!

With the trial on hiatus for a week, we start back up with a surprise twist (not me)

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Hello, this is TwistNHook from SBN's Cal site, California Golden Blogs. We've been taking a ponder at the impending Sterling trial for the last few weeks. This is part 10 and here are the other first parts:

Part 1:  The Basics

Part 2:  Mental Capacity And The Law

Part 3:  Shelly Sterling's Filings

Part 4:  June 23 Trial Setting Conference

Part 5:  June 30 Trial Setting Conference

Part 6:  Day 1 of the Trial

Part 7:  Day 2 of the Trial

Part 8:  Day 3 of the Trial

Part 9:  Day 4 of the Trial

And we're back!  Before we get into the details of today, I did a podcast/radio show over the week off.  I've never done a show like that, so that was interesting.  Here it is:

I know that some of you have squabbled with CitizenJeff before, but he's treated me with nothing but respect.  We had a good back and forth and I hope that it is enjoyment.  Hope I didn't say anything dumb!

So, back in to the middle of it all!  We took a week off because one of the lawyers had a vacation.  It's true, sometimes attorneys go on vacation.  We are people, too!  I'm going on the assumption that this was a long-planned vacation, because I doubt the Judge would have just agreed to a week long delay at the last minute.  Either way, it was a good opportunity for everybody to catch their breath and me to spend time with my loved ones!

The plan was to start up this week with one and a half days of testimony for Donald Sterling's attorneys.  Shelley had had 3 half days and 1 short day (the first day of the trial was truncated as they waited for the federal court to rule on whether the case should be moved to federal court).  So, with one full day and one half day, DTS' side would get a similar amount of time.

I was not 100% certain which witnesses they would call, but I figured DTS himself might be up there and perhaps Shelly Sterling would testify again.  However, instead of that, DTS called no witnesses today.  It was a very short day with only one witness testifying.  Before we get into that, there was a bit of action over the week off.

But Judge Michael Levanas ruled in favor of Shelly's side Friday in two areas:

• He will not throw out the testimony and written reports of two doctors who certified in writing that Donald Sterling was mentally incapable of continuing to serve as a co-trustee on the Sterling Family Trust. (Shelly had him removed as a trustee on that basis, clearing the way for her to unilaterally sell the Clippers.)

• He will not allow Donald's lawyers to call Shelly's lawyers as witnesses. Donald's side hoped to show that Shelly's attorneys were part of a conspiracy, with Shelly and the two doctors, designed for the sole purpose of stripping Donald of the power to block a sale of the club.

That first one seems huge to me.  The key issue was whether the doctors did their reports appropriately or if they defrauded/bamboozled/flimflammed DTS.  The Judge did not throw out their testimony/report, leaving me to believe he has confidence in the evaluations.  That bodes poorly for DTS.

He also will not let DTS called Shelly's attorneys as witnesses.  DTS' attorneys have been trying to argue a conspiracy.  They argued that revealing the medical records to the attorneys/media was inappropriate. They spent a lot of time arguing about whether it was appropriate for the doctors to talk directly with the lawyers.  I can personally attest, as an elder law attorney, to speaking directly with doctors who are evaluating the elderly.  I do not view it as a potential conspiracy.

Conspiracy has a lot of negative connotations, but what is a conspiracy?  It is a plan.  Shelly Sterling had a plan and that plan included removing DTS as a trustee.  Conspiracy invokes the thought of "crime" or "inappropriate."  This plan is an entirely appropriate plan given his apparent mental state.  The Judge seemingly agreed and precluded the attorneys from testifying.

Now, that may have been the bulk of the witnesses for DTS.  I do not know.  The Judge also apparently ruled on the testimony of DTS and Shelly:

Superior Court Judge Michael Levanas was ambivalent about the need for more testimony from the pair but said he would permit it only if lawyers show that they are raising matters not covered during lengthy testimony by both Sterlings.

So, they cannot testify unless it is something totally new.  Shelly's attorneys cannot testify.  Who *did* testify?  What happened today?  First, a lot of nothing.

Then, DTS' side said they would only call one witness, who already testified:

We'll see what the Judge allows her to testify on tomorrow.  So, the person who did testify was one of DTS' money guys.

This witness was going to testify about the second issue the Judge outlined for this trial.  We haven't really touched on this issue, this is what happens to a Trust when it is revoked.  Is it immediately over or does the Trustee have power to finalize deals, including a previously agreed to legally binding contract to sell a NBA team?  DTS attempted to revoke the Trust after he was removed.  If successful, that would distribute the Clippers back to DTS, in part, allowing him to block the sale.

Shelly Sterling's witness list included a Trust attorney (who I know) to testify on that legal issue.  The person who testified today testified about what happens to *this* Trust if it is revoked.  If the issue is about Trusts in general, I'm not sure whether this testimony is all that relevant.

Shelly's lawyers argued that this could have disastrous effects on the LA real estate market.  That may be true.  The Judge may not want that to happen in a personal sense.  However, this trial is not about whether the real estate market could be affected by a sell off of property.  It is also not about whether the Sterlings have a $500 million dollar loan.  It is about whether DTS' attempted revocation causes an immediate cessation of the Trustee powers or whether a Trustee can still sell the team.

We saw a lot of seemingly irrelevant testimony in the first week and this seems like more of the same.  That was pretty much it for today.  What will we see tomorrow?

Tomorrow is supposed to be the last day of trial with closing arguments set for next week.  It sounds like that Trust expert attorney will not be testifying at all.  We'll see if we get any relevant testimony tomorrow.  Dick Parsons is the interim executive running the Clippers.  He apparently is going to testify as to the damage DTS' continued association with the team has on the Clippers:

The meeting came a day before former Citigroup chairman Dick Parsons was expected to blow the whistle on how Sterling's continued ownership is harming the basketball team.

The Brooklyn-born businessman, who was named interim CEO of the Clippers after Sterling was banned from the NBA for life for making racist comments, was due on the witness stand Tuesday afternoon, in the contentious probate trial over the team's sale.

So, we'll have his testimony which goes to this sale being in the best interest of the Trust and its beneficiaries.  That is somewhat relevant to the Trust in general, although not really relevant to the two issues the Judge outlined.  Then, we'll have more testimony on the revocation, which may not be relevant as discussed above.  No idea what Shelly is going to say that she has not said before.  We'll see.

This seems to change on a day to day basis, so who knows what tomorrow is going to bring.  All signs continue to point towards a Shelly Sterling victory.  But enough of my thoughts!  What do you think?  Leave your comments below and GO BEARS!