Governor won't appeal divorce case ruling

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, seeking a divorce from first lady Dawn Gibbons, won't appeal a judge's ruling that the law allowing parties in a divorce to close hearings and seal case records is unconstitutional, his lawyer says.

"The governor does not agree with the court's interpretation of the law concerning the sealing of divorce files. We believe such a ruling will eventually be overturned," said Reno attorney Gary Silverman.

"However, the governor will not seek a stay or seek to overturn the decision in his case. He will obey the court's ruling and abide by it," Silverman said Monday.

Cal Dunlap, the lawyer for Dawn Gibbons, said he disagreed with Silverman's assessment and considered the ruling late Friday by Washoe County Family Court Judge Frances Doherty as "a well-reasoned decision."

The decision means that Doherty will open the file in the divorce case to public inspection in March. She also could decide to open the divorce trial itself. Dunlap said he doesn't know of anything that his client wants sealed in the divorce case.

Silverman said in his view Doherty's decision "inhibits honest claims on delicate subjects, and has no public use except to encourage voyeurism, gossip and ugliness. Just what the press ordered."

Gibbons filed for divorce May 2 in Carson City District Court, citing "incompatibility" with Dawn. They had been married since June 1986, but a few months before the filing the governor's office acknowledged that they were having problems and that he had moved out of the mansion.

Dawn stayed in the mansion for a while, but now lives in an apartment adjacent to the mansion.

Gibbons asked to have his divorce case sealed, and the Carson City judge granted the request. A week later, Dawn Gibbons successfully had the case moved to Reno, but it remained closed. Dunlap filed a motion days later asking Doherty to open the proceedings.

In his motion, Dunlap said Gibbons "has deserted, abandoned, and has shunned his wife without justification for that behavior," and her reputation was tarnished by "false and misleading" claims made by Gibbons.

"Mrs. Gibbons is entitled to her day in court, in an open court, not in a secret proceeding, but a public one that will provide her with a forum in which to be publicly exonerated," he said. "Mrs. Gibbons is blameless . . . and lust is the real villain here."

Dunlap alleged Gibbons was having an affair with a woman who had known the couple for years and that was the real reason why the governor wanted a divorce. Gibbons denied those claims, saying the woman was a friend.


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