Judge denies Hobbs request to sanction Lake over Arizona election claims

Elections 2022

An Arizona judge on Tuesday rejected a request to sanction Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake (R) over her lawsuit challenging her defeat.

Maricopa County and Katie Hobbs (D), in her capacities as both governor-elect and secretary of state, had asked the judge to require Lake and her legal team to pay all parties’ attorneys’ fees, arguing the suit was groundless and made in bad faith.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson in Tuesday’s decision reiterated that Lake did not meet the burden of providing clear and convincing evidence of her claims necessary to win the case, but he said her suit did not meet the standard for imposing sanctions.

“There is no doubt that each side believes firmly in its position with great conviction,” Thompson ruled on Tuesday. “The fact that Plaintiff failed to meet the burden of clear and convincing evidence required … does not equate to a finding that her claims were, or were not, groundless and presented in bad faith. Any legal decision must be based on the law and facts rather than subjective beliefs or partisan opinions, no matter how strongly held.”

Thompson’s ruling, however, does require Lake to reimburse Hobbs $33,040.50 for certain costs incurred during the proceedings in accordance with other state statutes applicable because Lake did not win the case.

Those costs include $28,351 in fees for expert witnesses called by Hobbs and $4,689.50 in compensation paid to Hobbs’s representative who attended ballot inspections prior to trial.

Lake’s campaign has vowed to appeal the judge’s dismissal of the case, standing by the unproven allegations of misconduct and railing against Hobbs’s sanctions push.

Maricopa County and Hobbs had argued Lake and her attorneys should have known that they had no evidence to successfully mount an election challenge, also noting Lake’s refusal to commit to accepting the election results prior to the midterms. 

“Courts are established by Arizona’s Constitution and statutes to resolve actual disputes between parties,” the motion stated. “They do not exist so that candidates for political office can attempt to make political statements and fundraise. And they should not be used to harass political opponents and sow completely unfounded doubts about the integrity of elections. All of those things happened in this matter.”

The motion also took aim at a tweet Lake posted accusing the founding partner of Elias Law Group, a firm representing Hobbs as governor-elect, of improperly emailing the judge “what to say” in his dismissal.

There is no evidence to support the allegation, and Lake later deleted the tweet after it was cited in the sanctions request. 

“@katiehobbs wants Marc Elias well compensated for helping her destroy free and fair elections in Arizona. This is an attack on our First Amendment & the rule of law. Who will speak out against it?” Lake’s campaign tweeted on Monday evening.

This story was updated at 2:58 p.m.

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