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Sterling probate trial delayed over jurisdiction questions

The much anticipated probate trial pitting Shelly Sterling against her estranged husband, Donald Sterling is on hold for now as the LA County probate court waits to hear from a federal district court judge as to whether Sterling’s motions, and the probate case itself, will be heard in federal court.

According to a recent USA Today report, Sterling’s attorneys filed a motion on Thursday asking a federal court judge to exercise jurisdiction over the case. They explained that in the course of removing Sterling as a trustee of the Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Los Angeles Clippers, his federal rights regarding privacy of medical records were violated. Because of this, Sterling claims that he was improperly removed and does not desire to sell the team. 

The team was reportedly sold to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion. Sterling was forced to sell the team after he was banished from the NBA after tapes of his racists rants went public.

Jurisdiction is an important threshold question since it is the legal authority to hear and rule on a particular case. Without this, a case must be removed to a proper court that has the correct authority. Questions as to whether a case may be heard in state court or federal court are not always clear cut. Because of this, an experienced litigator is necessary to explain to the court what venue is legally authorized to hear the matter.

Nevertheless, attorneys for Shelly Sterling claim that the latest motion is merely a delay tactic to thwart the closing date for the sale of the Clippers, which is currently scheduled for July 15. It remains to be seen whether the date will be amended to accommodate the probate trial.

Source: USA, “Sterling trial on second delay to move to federal court,” David Leon Moore, July 7, 2014

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