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Donald Sterling fails to show up for his first day in court, as Shelly Sterling wins the first round

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie
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Shelly Sterling laughs it up courtside in the hours following the release of Donald Sterling's tapes. (Getty Images)

When a Sterling is supposed to meet a Sterling, comin’ through the rye, and one doesn’t decide to show up? To a court date, no less? A court date fixed on determining whether or not one of them is mentally competent enough to represent his stake in the Sterling Family Trust, and by extension the Los Angeles Clippers?

Cleary, you know we’re talking about Donald Sterling, here, and on Monday he failed to show up to the first installment of a four-day probate hearing waged on his behalf, fighting the ruling that declared that he was suffering from cognitive impairment. Donald Sterling is arguing that the disclosure of his medical records violates several state privacy laws, and that the neurologist who gave the tests acted unprofessionally by heading out for food and drinks with both Donald and wife Shelly Sterling after administering the tests.

That was not a smart move on that particular professional’s end. Was it as bad as deciding to give a court date a miss, as Donald Sterling did? We’ll have to find out later this week. From USA Today:

"This was a singular victory for Shelly Sterling, for Steve Ballmer and for a record sale of $2 billion," Shelly's lead attorney, Pierce O'Donnell, said after the day in court.

[…]

"[Donald Sterling] was subpoenaed to be here," O'Donnell said, looking around the courtroom for dramatic effect. "He was to be my lead-off witness. He is not here."

Whether or not Sterling’s absence affected the rulings is up for conjecture, but Judge Michael Levanas did deny Donald Sterling’s attempts to have the probate hearing thrown out of court, and the judge also ruled that the findings of the cognitive tests administered on Donald Sterling on May 19 could be discussed via testimony.

Meril Platzer, the neurologist that was later swayed when Donald Sterling reportedly told her, “I'm hungry. I want to eat,” testified that Sterling’s responses to her tests were in line with someone suffering from cognitive impairment, and Alzheimer’s.

Such a conclusion, should it hold up in court, would then allow Shelly Sterling to remove her former husband from her family’s trust, and Mrs. Sterling could move on to sell the embattled Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft executive Steve Ballmer for an NBA record $2 billion.

Donald Sterling, as you likely know, is under pressure from the NBA to sell his franchise after being caught on tape making racist comments about potential Clipper game attendees and plantation-esque deductions about his players. If the Sterling family trust cannot come up with a legally binding plan to sell on its own, the NBA will move to hold an owners vote to remove Sterling (who has already been banned for life by the league) out of the NBA, while the league’s office takes over the team.

That vote has already been postponed after Sterling went on record to agree to a sell. He later backtracked on those remarks.

Many legal analysts have already written that Donald Sterling has a slim chance, at best, of besting both the Sterling family trust and the NBA in his various legal pursuits. One of those scribes, Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann, went on to discuss what Sterling can do from here in order to make up for Monday’s absence:

Donald Sterling could mitigate the impact of his absence by appearing in court on Tuesday. His attorneys assure that he will be there and ready to testify. If instead Sterling remains away, Levanas could take one of several actions. Most likely, Levanas would simply continue the hearing without Sterling, and infer from Sterling’s absence that Sterling refuses to participate. The absence of Donald Sterling personally advocating his case would probably make Levanas more inclined to rule in Shelly Sterling’s favor.   

Alternatively, Levanas could end the proceeding early by issuing a default judgment against Donald Sterling. The judgment would be premised on Sterling’s failure to appear in court. It is unlikely that Levanas would issue a default judgment.

Levanas already told Sterling’s representatives (who attempted to take the blame for his absence) that he would prefer that the current Clippers owner would show up to court at 2:30 local time on Tuesday afternoon. Donald Sterling loves law proceedings, but the notoriously mercurial (to be very, very nice) billionaire has already shot himself in the figurative foot several times during the fallout following his remarks, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not he’d deign (as he probably sees it) to attend.

Whatever his decision, we’ll be around to document his next slip-up. Because you know one is coming.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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