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Nevada divorce case raises questions about campaign contributions

A high-profile divorce case has launched a debate over the propriety of Nevada judges deciding cases in which an election campaign contributor is a party or otherwise has a stake in the outcome. The decision in the case could affect the upcoming campaigns of all 82 Nevada district court judges, which are scheduled to take place in 2014.

In 2009, eight-time World Series of Poker champion Phil Ivey was granted an uncontested divorce from his wife, to whom he had been married for seven years. In 2011, he stopped making spousal support payments to his ex-wife after the company with whom he played poker was seized by the U.S. government. His ex-wife has asked the judge to force Ivey to make those alimony payments.

Now, Ivey's ex-wife has filed a complaint in Clark County family court, alleging that the decisions made by the judge that oversaw her divorce case were tainted by her ex-husband's $5,000 contribution to the judge's campaign. The allegation follows a failed 2010 attempt by the ex-wife to disqualify the judge from her ongoing divorce proceedings.

This is not the first time such an argument has been made. Under Nevada state law, individuals can donate up to $10,000 to a judge's campaign, and judges have long been accused of favoring donors in court. In light of that history, it is unclear whether this newest allegation has any merit, or whether it will result in any change in the case or in the state campaign contribution rules.

What do you think? Should judges be permitted to preside over the case of a campaign donor?

Source: Greenfield Reporter, "Poker star's divorce case fuels Nevada Supreme Court arguments about contributions to judges," July 11, 2012

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