Monday, November 16, 2015

Sterling v. Sterling (Cal. Ct. App. - Nov. 16, 2015)

I'd mention this opinion if only because you probably already know about its background.  This is the appeal of the fight between Donald and Shelly Sterling over the $2 billion sale of the L.A. Clippers.

The trial court allowed Donald to be removed as a trustee of the trust and hence allowed the sale to go forward.

The Court of Appeal affirms.

The appeal wasn't even close.  Donald was going to lose.  Easily.

But in doing so, not only does Donald's side lose, but it also gets slammed a bit.

As for Donald himself, the Court of Appeal publishes a variety of details that don't make him look especially awesome.  (Not that he's got much to lose in that department given, inter alia, his prior recorded statements.)  Including  that "Donald was unable to spell the word 'world' backwards" and "[w]hen asked to subtract 7 from 100, he could not perform the calculation past 93 (100- 7=93); he could not subtract 7 from 93 (93-7=86)."  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  But it does let everyone know -- if they didn't already -- that Donald's Alzheimer’s disease (which was confirmed through a PET scan) was fairly serious.

As for Donald's attorneys, well, they don't come out smelling awesome either.  Here's a footnote in which the Court of Appeal describes the "valuation expert" that Donald's attorney called in the trial court (whose name, by the way, is Dean Bonham):  "The probate court found Donald’s purported expert on valuation not credible. The court 'found his training and experience totally lacking including no high school diploma, no college degree, no formal training in accounting for valuation of businesses.' Additionally, he misrepresented his expertise when he testified."  That's not exactly going to cut it.

The Court of Appeal also doesn't obfuscate its take on Donald's appellate attorneys either (who are with Samini Law).  Here's a taste of that:

"Donald’s appeal suffers from numerous deficiencies. First, California Rules of Court, rule 8.204 requires that each brief support reference to a matter in the record with citation “to the volume and page number of the record where the matter appears.” [Citations] Donald repeatedly cites to matters without identifying the volume and page number in the appellate record where the item appears. He makes factual assertions with no citation to the record and cites to lengthy exhibits from the trial court without identifying their location in the record on appeal (most of which he failed to include in the appellate record). His reply brief contains hardly any citation to the record to support his factual assertions.

Second, Donald summarizes the evidence in the light favorable to his position and ignores the probate court’s credibility determinations. He has devoted most of his briefs to rearguing the facts and relies on evidence expressly rejected by the probate court. As a result Donald has forfeited his arguments on appeal based on the sufficiency of the evidence including his argument that the evidence does not support the probate court’s determination he was properly removed as a trustee. 

Third, by way of this appeal, Donald seeks the following relief: 'that this Court reverse the probate court’s orders and direct that the sale of the Los Angeles Clippers from [Rochelle] to Ballmer be undone.' Donald fails to show that he is entitled to this relief. He cites no authority for the proposition that this court can “undo” a sale after that sale was sanctioned under section 1310(b). (His argument directly contradicts the argument made in his writ petition that the sale could not be undone once completed.) Acts taken pursuant to section 1310(b) are valid regardless of the outcome on appeal. [Citations] Therefore, even if Donald is successful, the sale of the Clippers cannot be 'undone' and Donald seeks no other relief and demonstrates no other prejudice. Although this issue is dispositive, we discuss Donald’s arguments as if he were able to demonstrate prejudice."

We'll see if the lawyers are able (or willing) to control their client when we see whether Donald files a request for review by the California Supreme Court (and/or an equally frivolous petition for writ of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court).  If so, that'll speak volumes about the participants here.