Donald Sterling’s long-running legal fight over the $2-billion sale of the Clippers suffered another setback Tuesday when a federal judge dismissed the onetime owner’s antitrust lawsuit against the NBA.
In a 13-page order laced with forceful language, U.S. District Judge Fernando M. Olguin wrote that the “court is skeptical Sterling suffered any injury at all, let alone an antitrust injury.”
The judge described other portions of the lawsuit as “plainly insufficient” and “clearly implausible.”
In an email Wednesday, Sterling’s attorney, Bobby Samini, wrote that the real estate mogul's legal team was considering whether to appeal the decision and planned to file a separate lawsuit related to the matter in state court.
“While we are not entirely surprised by the ruling, our client remains committed to the cause,” Samini wrote.
However, Pierce O’Donnell, the attorney for Sterling’s wife, Shelly, who sold the team against his objections, characterized the judge’s order as “the final chapter” and a “merciful end” to the stream of sale-related litigation.
An NBA spokesman declined to comment on the decision.
Donald Sterling launched his legal fight in May 2014 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles the day after Shelly Sterling agreed to sell the Clippers to Steve Ballmer following her husband’s inflammatory comments about African Americans.
The lawsuit alleged that the NBA engaged in a wide-ranging conspiracy that included Commissioner Adam Silver, Shelly Sterling and others to remove Donald Sterling after 33 years as owner of the Clippers. Last year, Sterling expanded the lawsuit to include his wife, two doctors who found him mentally incapable of continuing as a member of the family trust that owned the team and former NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The NBA described Sterling in a court filing last year as “seeking to portray himself as a victim of a variety of imagined and meritless legal wrongs.”
Shelly Sterling indemnified the NBA against litigation by her husband as part of the agreement to sell the Clippers. About $1 billion of the sale proceeds remained in an escrow account controlled by the the league pending the lawsuit’s outcome. The status of the money isn’t clear.
Sterling, who once pledged to sue the NBA for the rest of his life, sought more than $1 billion in damages. The dismissal is the latest in a string of legal defeats for him.
Last November, California’s 2nd District Court of Appeal upheld the probate court ruling that allowed the Clippers’ sale to proceed. The three-justice panel wrote that the appeal “suffers from numerous deficiencies” and that evidence “overwhelmingly supported” the probate court’s decision.
In the same month, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge dismissed Sterling’s lawsuit against TMZ, which published an audio recording of his comments about African Americans.
Donald Sterling filed for divorce last year, but the couple “resolved their differences” and dismissed the action earlier this month.