Phil Ivey may be a happy man today, thanks to his recent divorce. However, his contribution to the judge who granted him the divorce has caused a bit of a slur among judges and the Nevada Supreme Court. Ivey’s $5,000 towards campaign donation has sparked a debate on whether or not judges must sit out of cases that involve their contributors. The Nevada Supreme Court believes that asking judges to sit out of their contributors’ cases will allow a more unbiased hearing.
Over the years, there have been rumors that the judges in Nevada are partial towards their contributors. This piece of news has been all over the media, especially since the Los Angeles Times article in 2006. Chief Justice Michael Cherry however had a very different thing to say. He said a decision to prohibit judges from sitting out on cases involving their contributors, would inadvertently cause an issue of “free speech” if the High Court banned people from freely contributing for judicial campaigns. He also said that any decision of this kind from the Supreme Court would only adversely affect the way campaigns are conducted for all 82-district judges in 2014. Normally any contribution would come from law firms than individuals.
In December 2009, Phil Ivey; winner of eight World Series of Poker bracelets, was granted an uncontested divorce by Clark County Family Court Judge William Gonzalez. In 2011, his now ex-wife Luciaetta filed a petition with the Family Court claiming that Ivey was not complying with the divorce settlement and has not been paying the spousal support that was agreed to. However, Luciaetta sought to disqualify Gonzalez from hearing her case, due to his “alleged” biased attitude towards Ivey. District Judge Jennifer Togliatti, dismissed Luciaetta’s appeal to disqualify Gonzalez. Luciaetta appealed again to the Supreme Court.
In his statement, Luciaetta’s attorney Bruce Shapiro said that the intention was not to accuse Gonzalez of malpractice, but to bring to light the issues judicial contributions pose to the public. Shapiro also claimed that $5,000 in contributions came in more than once; and from Ivey alone Gonzalez collected a little more than the entire contributions he made from his other contributors. This allegation was however refuted by Justice Mark Gibbons, who claimed that the $5,000 Gonzalez received was only 15% of his total campaign.
Ivey’s attorney David Chesnoff rebuffed Lucietta’s allegations and said that, “the 2009 divorce was uncontested and they had no children. Ivey made that contribution in 2010, after their divorce.” He also added, “Luciaetta has no case.”

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