CourtSide - The FindLaw Breaking Legal News Blog

May 2014 Archives

Donald Sterling has formally responded to the NBA's lifetime ban, claiming it was illegal under California law to oust him based on a "lover's quarrel" that was "illegally recorded."

In Sterling's response (attached below) he says the racist, hateful remarks were uttered in private settings and that he never had knowledge nor provided consent to have them recorded.

Sterling is not going to go down without a fight, it seems. Sterling's lawyer, Max Blecher, told ESPN that his client "is going to fight to the bloody end."

The recording of Sterling's private remarks to V. Stiviano was arguably are unlawful under California law. And the NBA is attempting to throw him out based on the recording.

If the NBA was suing Sterling in a court of law, the recording would likely be deemed inadmissible under rules of evidence. But, as Sterling acknowledges, the NBA's internal system of justice doesn't follow courtroom rules of evidence.

Donald Sterling's answer also included a cover letter that the Los Angeles Times reports he has received offers "in excess of $2.5 billion" to buy the Clippers.

Michigan can't block the opening of an off-reservation Indian casino because of a tribe's sovereign immunity, the Supreme Court has ruled.

A divided Court ruled 5-4 that the state could not block the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its reservation. Michigan and 16 other states had urged the Court to allow the casino to be shuttered.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court that the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act only allows a state to bring lawsuits challenging casinos operating on Indian lands. But the Bay Mills casino was opened outside the tribe's reservation, Kagan said, placing it outside the law's coverage.

The 5-4 decision divided the Court, but not along traditional ideological lines.

Joining Justice Kagan was Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Sotomayor. Justice Thomas wrote the dissent, joined by Justices Scalia, Ginsburg and Alito.

Kagan noted that Michigan officials have other options for dealing with the casino, such as bringing a lawsuit against individual tribal officials or even prosecuting tribal members under criminal laws.

Supreme Court Upholds Prayer at Town Meetings

The Supreme Court has upheld the long-standing tradition of offering prayers at the start of government meetings, even if those prayers are heavily Christian.

The Court ruled that the town of Greece, New York was free to open its monthly public meetings with a prayer. Two residents, one Jewish and one atheist, claimed that because the prayers were almost always Christian, the practice amounted to government endorsement of a single faith.

The 5-4 ruling (attached below) was written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, with the court's conservatives agreeing and its liberals, led by Justice Elena Kagan, dissenting.

Kennedy wrote that "ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define."

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the town's practices could not be reconciled "with the First Amendment's promise that every citizen, irrespective of her religion, owns an equal share of her government."

The Supreme Court last considered the issue of government prayer in 1983, ruling that the Nebraska legislature did not violate the Constitution by opening its sessions with a prayer from a Presbyterian minister.

Friday Forum: Can You Find a Way for the NBA to Boot Sterling?

It's the topic that won't die: Donald Sterling is a racist.

Of course, those of us who paid attention to the L.A. sports scene have known this for years -- there was the refusal to rent to African Americans, and the time he brought women into the locker room to view his players' "beautiful black bodies," relays Deadspin. His former general manager, NBA legend Elgin Baylor, who admittedly had a bone to pick with him (litigation was ongoing at the time), compared Sterling's management of the team to a plantation, reports Yahoo.

But with Sterling's lifelong suspension, imposed by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver earlier this week, came an interesting question: can the league force him to sell the team?

Obviously, with the NBA and Donald Sterling being private parties (as opposed to the government, which has its own set of powers), any ability to force a sale is going to have to come from a contract: the NBA bylaws. The formerly secret bylaws were released by the league earlier this week, leading to lots of speculation. One lawyer, writing for Fox Sports, argued that the bylaws don't provide such an authority.

We'll toss the question to you, dear audience: do these bylaws support a forced sale? Hint: Article 13 - Termination of Ownership or Membership begins on page 36 of the PDF (page 26 of the document).

Tweet us your best legal theories, in 140 characters or less, to @FindLawLP.

Whatever happens, this battle won't be resolved quickly. Though the NBA has a long queue of interested buyers, Sterling has let it known that he'll file suit to block the sale, under breach of contract or antitrust claims, reports the New York Daily News.

For Sports Law geeks, this is going to be fun to watch.

ACLU Sues Ohio After State Slashes Early Voting (Again)

This is appropriate, considering today is Law Day, and the ABA's theme for 2104 is voting rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Ohio Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the League of Women Voters of Ohio, and several African-American churches, after state officials passed a law and issued a mandate ending multiple early voting opportunities for Ohio voters in advance of the 2014 election.

Ohio Senate Bill 238 targets "Golden Week," which allows voters to register and vote on the same day, during the week preceding the election, while a directive from Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted eliminates voting on Sundays, evenings, and the Monday before Election Day.

The ACLU's press release notes that low-income individuals often take advantage of the evening and weekend voting, either because they cannot take time off of work to vote, or because these times make finding child care opportunities easier. Homeless individuals benefit from the Golden Week same-day registration and voting. The complaint also notes that a disproportionately high percentage of early voters are African American.

This isn't Ohio's first attempt to end early voting. According to the ACLU, the state passed a law eliminating both the Golden Week and three days of early voting before Election Day, but the law was repealed by the legislature after voters organized a ballot referendum to strike it down.

In 2012, Husted eliminated the same three days of early voting for non-military voters, but a lawsuit by the Obama campaign forced the state to restore the early voting days.