After having arguably one of the finest performances at the World Series of Poker in its history, Phil Ivey is the subject of discussion in the court system of the state of Nevada.
Prior to Christmas 2009, Ivey and his then-wife, Luciaetta, filed a joint petition for dissolution of their marriage that was granted by Clark County Family Court Judge William Gonzalez. With no children from the marriage, the simple task for the divorce court was to decide on how property would be divided and if Luciaetta would be entitled to any alimony payments (during the seven year marriage, Ivey had earned almost $12 million). Although Judge Gonzalez granted the divorce, problems would emerge from the decision.
In 2011, Luciaetta’s attorney, Bruce Shapiro, filed a petition that claimed Phil wasn’t paying the proper amount of spousal support. Coming before Judge Gonzalez again, Shapiro instead looked to have Gonzalez removed from the case due to “potential favoritism” because Phil had contributed $5000 to his re-election campaign in 2010. That motion was overturned and Shapiro took the case to appeal, where it was once again denied. Shapiro pushed the action to the Nevada Supreme Court, where the arguments were held yesterday.
Over the span of 45 minutes of arguments, both sides presented their case before the seven member court headed by Chief Justice Michael Cherry, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal reporter Ed Vogel. Shapiro stated that, while not accusing Gonzalez of any improprieties regarding the Ivey case, it did present an appearance that there could be such issues to the general public. Shapiro also presented several interesting statistics that made the case that Gonzalez should have recused himself from the hearing.
The LVRJ says that Shapiro pointed out that few full $5000 donations (the largest legal amount by Nevada campaign law) were given to Family Court judges in 2010. When factoring in additional contributions by Phil Ivey’s legal team along with Ivey’s donation, Gonzalez raised $12,543, which was more than the entire contributions that his opponent for the judgeship raised for the entire election.
Shapiro ended his arguments by stating, “Nineteen other judges (in Family Court) could hear the case.”
David Chesnoff, the attorney for Phil Ivey, basically contended that the former Mrs. Ivey didn’t have a case. According to Chesnoff, the divorce was uncontested, there were no children and the contribution was made after the divorce had been granted. “The case is already dead,” Chesnoff stated to the Justices.
As to the stoppage of alimony payments, Chesnoff cited the “Black Friday” closure of Full Tilt Poker as the reason behind that action. “(Prior to last year) Mrs. Ivey made millions (from the divorce settlement),” Chesnoff said. “Tilt was stopped, alimony stopped.”
For their part, the Justices raised several questions. “This is an election state and judges need contributions,” Justice Michael Douglas opined during the arguments. “That is the reality.”
Chief Justice Cherry took the discussion to another level, stating that there could be “free speech” issues in trying to block people from contributing to campaigns of judicial candidates. Taking the decision before them seriously, Cherry cited it could lead to problems for the entire state of Nevada when it comes to judicial elections in 2014.
In writing his article, Vogel points out that there has been a long list of allegations regarding judges in Nevada showing a bias towards campaign contributors. Vogel cites a 2006 expose by the Los Angeles Times that examined this issue and also notes that campaign laws were changed over the last few years to prohibit judges from soliciting campaign contributions when they are running unopposed.
As the arguments were just heard yesterday, there has not been a decision made on the case as of yet. Poker News Daily will continue to monitor the situation and report on the eventual outcome.