A woman who sold a $62,000 diamond engagement ring the day before her ex-boyfriend sued to get it back wants a lawsuit over their dispute moved out of a Livingston Parish courtroom where her former beau once served as a district judge.
Ellyn Julia Clevenger also asserts in court filings this week that no one should call Wayne Ray Chutz by the title "Judge" during the proceedings. Chutz formerly was a Division A judge in Livingston Parish and is now on Louisiana's 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.
"His position makes him somewhat of a celebrity in the small area," she said in an interview.
In her filings with the 21st Judicial District Court, Clevenger says she cannot get a fair trial in a courtroom where Chutz sat for 20 years, until 2014. Judge Jeff Johnson holds the seat now and Clevenger says he played a role in picking his replacement. At the 1st Circuit, Chutz can hear appeals from Livingston Parish.
"Plaintiff, although prohibited from formally participating in the election, did exercise some influence in the selection of his successor," Clevenger wrote in her court filing.
Chutz sued Clevenger in December, asking her to return a $62,000 ring he said was given as part of a marriage proposal in February 2016. Louisiana law typically considers engagement rings to be "conditional gifts," meaning they can be reclaimed if there is no wedding.
Clevenger, who is a lawyer, has said in interviews and court filings that she should not have to give back the ring, because it was not truly given in contemplation of marriage. Instead, she says, it was a "shut her up" gift given to persuade her to get back together with him.
She said Chutz never officially proposed and demurred whenever she tried to make plans for a wedding. On a few occasions, according to Clevenger, Chutz said, “I shouldn’t have to buy you any more presents for the rest of your life, after buying you that ring.” But when she offered to give him back the ring, he said, “No, that’s your ring. I don’t want it back,” according to her court filing.
The couple had dated previously in 2013 and 2014, she said.
Johnson had ordered deputies seize the ring from Clevenger and sequester it for the duration of the proceedings. But when deputies served her with the lawsuit at the courthouse in February, she told them the ring had already sold.
Clevenger said she sent it in to an online auction the day before the suit was filed and sold it for $15,000.
"Since I figured out our relationship probably wasn't going to work out and we probably weren't going to get married, I was planning to sell it months before," she said in an interview.
According to court filings, the couple broke up in November 2018.
Neither Chutz nor his attorney, Richard McShan, responded to requests for comment this week.
The engagement ring features one 2.18 carat diamond in the center that is surrounded by more diamonds that also line the sides, the suit says.
A receipt provided by Clevenger shows Chutz bought the ring for $62,000 along with an accompanying wedding band for $2,000. He did not pay that much, however, because he traded in a $25,000 ring to cover part of the cost.
Clevenger has said she never received the wedding band.
In the original lawsuit, Chutz also sought repayment for $30,000 to $45,000 of expenses he incurred on her behalf, including the purchase of a long-haired Chihuahua named Mayzie and an Amazon Prime subscription.
He listed off various payments he made for Clevenger's personal issues, disclosing what she says is "confidential information that is scandalous or impertinent in nature, specifically because such information has the effect of damaging defendant's reputation."
Clevenger asks in her response to the lawsuit that these items be stricken from the original petition and sanctions be imposed on Chutz for including such information.