Poker star's divorce sets Nevada courts thumping thanks to contribution to divorce court judge
"What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas", the old travel campaign goes. But what happens to those Sin City denizens who live day-to-day with that mantra? One such example is poker player Phil Ivey, Vegas resident and eight-time World Series of Poker champion. For Ivey, whose net worth is in the tens of millions, spending money is just what he does. Who knew that dropping five large into the campaign war chest of a state judge would spark one of the biggest judicial controversies in Nevada's recent history?
The story begins in 2009 when Clark County Family Court Judge William Gonzalez proceeded over the divorce case between Ivey and his now-ex-wife, Luciaetta. Everyone was happy over the ruling of the uncontested divorce, except in 2011 Ivey stopped paying his court-mandated child support. Luciaetta filed a petition to get Ivey to continue paying, something he claims he stopped doing because of a business deal that soured. However, on top of asking the poker star to continue his payments, she also asked for Judge Gonzalez to be removed from the case because in between the final court proceedings in 2009 and now, Ivey and his lawyer had dropped over $12,000 in campaign contributions to the judge's campaign war chest. She was denied, but then appealed to the state Supreme Court where the case now resides.
The issue here is whether or not judges will be able to hear cases from people who contribute to their campaigns. This seems to have been a long time coming, as there has always been talk of undue influence from the relationship, even leading to a groundbreaking Los Angeles Times series in 2006. However, this might not change for a while thanks to the judges already on the high court talking about free speech issues or the "reality" of the situation, according to Justice Michael Douglas. It will be interesting to see how this situation turns out.