Nevada Governor's Divorce File Sealed

By: Brendan Riley AP
By: Brendan Riley AP

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) - Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, who filed Friday for divorce and for an order ousting the first lady from the governor's mansion, won a court ruling Monday sealing the files in the case and providing for a closed-door trial.

While the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in December that most civil case records must be open, Carson City District Judge Bill Maddox cited a specific state law that allows for sealing of such records and the trial at the request of either person in a divorce case.

In the 4-page order requested by Gibbons' lawyer, Gary Silverman, Maddox said details of the case will be kept secret at Gibbons' request, but some matters, including his orders and eventual judgment, will be public.

The judge cited a state law that says a judge "shall, upon demand of either party, direct that the trial and issue or issues of fact joined therein be private." Under that law, Gibbons' lawyer can move for secrecy and first lady Dawn Gibbons' attorney can't challenge him.

Cal Dunlap, attorney for Dawn Gibbons, said she'd prefer that the divorce files and trial be open "like any other legal proceeding."

"Obviously, anybody who is involved in these things would rather not have them be public," Dunlap said. "But what she's recognizing is that there's a legitimate public interest in the conduct and activities of the governor and the first lady."

The order says the divorce complaint, filed Friday along with the secrecy request, plus any answers and replies, the court's findings, judgment and any orders will be public.

But "all other papers records, proceedings and evidence, including exhibits and transcript of the testimony ... shall be sealed," the order states, adding that during the trial nobody other than the Gibbonses, family members, their lawyers and their witnesses can be present.

The order also blocks any moves by either Jim Gibbons or Dawn Gibbons to sell or in any other way dispose of any community or separate property, or to transfer, cash in, or change beneficiaries
on any insurance coverage, or retirement or pension benefits.

In the divorce complaint filed Friday, Silverman listed incompatibility as grounds for ending the couple's marriage of nearly 22 years. The complaint says Dawn Gibbons, 54, should pay all attorney fees, and spousal support, property and debts should be "awarded pursuant to law." The complaint also states that "the cause of action for divorce" occurred in Reno, but offers no specifics.

Silverman also said he requested "a court ruling concerning the living arrangements" at the mansion in Carson City. Dawn Gibbons is staying at the taxpayer-supported mansion while the 63-year-old governor lives in their home in Reno.

Dunlap has said he will "vehemently" oppose the request that Dawn Gibbons pay the attorney fees in the case. He also questioned the wording of the complaint, noting that it states both the governor and the first lady reside in the Reno area. That may be the case for the governor, but not for his wife, Dunlap added.

Gibbons recently moved from the governor's mansion while the couple sought to sort out their marital problems, and that raised questions about his compliance with an old state law requiring that he "reside at" Carson City. Reno and Carson City are about 25 miles apart.

The 1866 law says a governor must "keep his office and reside at the seat of government." It once applied to most constitutional officers, but over the years all officers but the governor have been exempted by the Legislature.

A spokesman for Gibbons described the move by the governor back to the couple's Reno home, which they have owned since 1989, as a temporary situation and said there's no law violation.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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