RENO — When Nevada governor Jim Gibbons divorced his wife last May, he took advantage of a 77-year-old statute that said that one party in a divorce could seal the divorce records from the public and hold the proceedings behind closed doors. His wife, Dawn Gibbons, had accused him of having an affair with a doctor’s wife, to whom the governor had sent about 860 text messages in less than a month in 2007; Governor Gibbons insisted that they were just friends.
The Associated Press reports that Judge Francis Dougherty has set a 60-day period for debate over which parts of the Gibbons divorce case can stay private. Gary Silverman, Governor Gibbons’ divorce lawyer, told AP that he and his client would discuss whether or not to file an appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court.
District Judge Bill Maddox ruled in favor of sealing the divorce records on May 5, after a request from the governor. But Dawn Gibbons’ divorce lawyer, Cal Dunlap, challenged the ruling shortly afterward, claiming that the statute (dating from the early 1930s) was unconstitutional when applied to public officials. Dunlap also said that a media interview Governor Gibbons gave violated an agreement not to speak in public about the divorce, according to KOLO-TV (ABC) in Reno.
Jim Gibbons, 64, has been in office in Nevada for just over two years; he also served in Congress for nearly ten years. He and Dawn Gibbons have been married for 23 years and have a 21-year-old son; Governor Gibbons cited “incompatibility” when he filed for divorce on May 2.