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Judge Declines to Sanction Kari Lake in Election Case

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A judge issued a ruling denying sanctions requested by attorneys for Maricopa County against GOP candidate Kari Lake after her latest legal challenge was rejected.

Maricopa County officials were seeking penalties against Lake and her attorneys after a Maricopa County judge, Peter Thompson, rejected her case challenging signature-verification rules that were implemented by the county during last year’s midterm elections. While asking Thompson to determine the amount that should be sanctioned, the Maricopa lawyers also requested reimbursement of attorney fees and other costs connected to Lake’s challenge.

But Thompson denied the request for sanctions and the petition for reimbursement on May 26, coming days after County Attorney Rachel Mitchell filed a motion for sanctions last week. It came about a day after Thompson ruled that Lake did not prove her claim that county officials didn’t verify tens of thousands of signatures on mail-in ballots.

“Even if her argument did not prevail, Lake, through her witness, presented facts consistent with and in support of her legal argument,” Thompson wrote (pdf) Friday. “The remainder of Defendants’ allegations appear to rely on the Court’s inherent power as the authority by which they request the Court ‘award’ unspecified sanctions ‘against’ Lake’s counsel,” he added.

“The Court acknowledges its inherent authority to sanction bad faith attorney conduct and that the rules of attorney conduct in the Rules of the Supreme Court provide a legal basis for imposing sanctions against attorneys,” the judge wrote. But he stipulated that “opposing litigants in a heated dispute will naturally view the same evidence differently,” providing an argument for why Lake’s lawyers shouldn’t be sanctioned.

Parties in a legal dispute, he further wrote, “may question each other’s good faith motivated simply by their conviction of their own cause and incomprehension at the conclusions of the other.”

It came after Mitchell wrote in court papers that her office would seek sanctions because Lake, a former local Fox affiliate reporter, allegedly “repeatedly made demonstrably false statements to this Court” and also claimed she brought poor arguments. They also allege that Lake’s claim centered around signature verification issues had “several demonstrably false statements intended to confuse the Court and expand the remand proceedings.”

Lake’s loss at trial about a week ago is the second time that Thompson rejected her claims. He first ruled against her legal challenge in late December after Lake alleged that problems during the November midterms were enough to cause her to lose the election, citing testimony from Election Day witnesses.

On Election Day, Maricopa County officials confirmed there were problems with printer tabulators but later stated that all voters on that day had the capacity to cast their ballots in person. But in the days after the midterms, Lake posted a number of videos from voters who indicated they were disenfranchised.

‘Elections Are a Mess’

While there has been speculation that Lake may seek the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), she has said she wants to take her election challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court, although the high court has shown little appetite in taking up election challenges in recent years. Earlier this year, Lake indicated that she might run for Senate in 2024 and said that her internal polling shows her performing well against Sinema, who left the Democratic Party last year, and Rep. Rueben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who launched a bid for the Senate.

Death Penalty-Arizona
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs delivers her State of the State address at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on Jan. 9, 2023. (Ross D. Franklin/AP Photo)

“We had the strongest election case in the entire country, and we went through the legal system and we did not get the verdict that we wanted,” Lake said last week after Thompson’s ruling. “Obviously, you all know that.”

“We needed people with courage to act courageously, and we didn’t get that,” Lake said, adding: “We proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our elections are a mess.”

Data shows that the Republican candidate was behind Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes. Hobbs, a Democrat, was sworn in as governor earlier this year.

Lake also said that she ran for office “because I wanted to root out corruption and return our government back to We The People. And we did everything right. The people showed up in droves to vote, only to have their sacred vote trampled upon. And so we’re going to work to correct that.”

“We have been working nonstop to put together a team and we are officially launching the largest most extensive ballot-chasing operation in our state’s history and, frankly, possibly in American history. The courts just ruled that this corrupt election will stay up. The courts just ruled that our elections can run lawlessly,” she added. “The courts have ruled that anything goes. Well, we can play by those same rules, okay? If anything goes, then anything goes.”

Lake, without elaborating, also said that “we are going to start chasing ballots like you’ve never seen.”

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