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Friday, May 30, 2014
Sterling lawsuit

Here is Donald Sterling's federal Complaint against the NBA. I think I'm with Lester Munson that this is frivolous, particularly the anti-trust and state constitutional claims; Munson thinks Sterling will be hit with sanctions, although I doubt it, knowing how judges wield FRCP 11 with wealthy plaintiffs. As for the breach-of-contract claims: If, as reports are suggesting, the league is going to approve the Shelly Sterling-brokered sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer and the league is going to cancel the hearing on forcing Donald to sell, then he has no claim against the NBA, only against Shelley and/or the family trust.

Correction/Further Thoughts: I should have looked more closely at the relief sought, including on the breach claims (which have more merit than the federal antitrust claim): As to all counts, Sterling seeks injunctive relief  eliminating the fine and lifetime ban, reinstating his preferred CEO, and halting the NBA's termination proceedings (which the NBA already appears to have halted).

And here is where, I think, it has the makings of a Civ Pro exam: If the NBA approves the sale, these claims all become moot (assuming the NBA waives the fine, as I imagine it would to make this all go away). Sterling's next move is to enjoin the sale. But to do that, Shelly Sterling (and the family trust, to the extent she claims to be running it) become compulsory defendants under FRCP 19, since Shelly purports to control the trust and is making decisions (whether the NBA's fingerprints are on those decisions or not) and she thus claims an interest in this matter that Sterling will not represent. Alternatively, Shelly will move to intervene to protect her interests. Resolving that issue also will require determinations of Sterling's competency and who is in control of the trust--these are complex issues of state law, which might cause a federal court to decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the state law claims (the three breach counts and the state constitutional law count) and leave Sterling to pursue this in state court. That would leave only the antitrust claim in federal court, which everyone seems to agree is a non-starter, regardless of relief sought.


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