Judge narrows Sterling trial issues

Updated: June 30, 2014, 9:27 PM ET
By Ramona Shelburne | ESPN.com

LOS ANGELES -- Donald Sterling's mental competency will no longer be an issue in next week's probate court trial to determine whether his estranged wife Shelly Sterling had the authority to sell the Los Angeles Clippers to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer after attorneys from both sides agreed Monday to narrow the focus of the trial to whether she followed the provisions of the family trust regarding competency and whether she has a responsibility to complete the sale after Donald Sterling revoked the trust on June 9.

The attorneys agreed to narrow the focus after Judge Michael Levanas said in court that he was not inclined to delay the July 7 hearing to accommodate a doctor who had been retained by Donald Sterling, that could not be present during next week's trial due to previous professional obligations and travel plans.

At issue now is whether or not Shelly Sterling followed the provisions of the trust dealing with mental competency, which allowed her to sell the team without her husband's explicit consent. Donald Sterling's lawyers said they will argue that she did not follow those provisions --which required two experts to submit letters in writing that he was not competent to conduct his own legal and business affairs -- and that she used undue influence to get him to submit to the examinations.

In previously filed court documents, it was revealed that Donald Sterling submitted to CT and PET scans at Cedar's Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles on May 16, and neurological examinations on May 19 and 22. On the same day he submitted to the second examination at his house, Donald Sterling sent a letter to the NBA informing them he'd consented to give his wife the authority to negotiate a sale of the team.

Gary Ruttenberg, an attorney for Donald Sterling, argued in court Monday that the letter on May 22 was not a blanket authorization for Shelly Sterling to sell the team, but simply a consent to let her negotiate with the NBA.

Pierce O'Donnell, the lawyer for Shelly Sterling, said after the hearing that he was confident his client had followed the provisions of the trust and there was no grounds to argue she'd unduly influenced the doctor's diagnoses, as Donald Sterling had consented to allow her to negotiate the sale after both examinations had been performed.

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