Maricopa County, Arizona, Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson denied on Friday Maricopa County’s request for Republican Kari Lake to be sanctioned for lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs win in November’s election.
In their motion for sanctions, the county, Hobbs and Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes had sought both legal fees and for Lake to be “severely sanctioned” with fines for her suit.
Thompson ruled last Monday following a three-day trial, that Lake’s legal team did not provide sufficient evidence to conclude that Maricopa County had not followed Arizona law during its signature review process for mail-in ballots in the general election.
Thompson noted in his ruling that during the trial, Lake’s legal team identified 274,000 signatures that were compared in less than two seconds and 70,000 that were reviewed in less than one second.
But he concluded Arizona law set no minimum time for review; therefore, it was up to Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer to determine what review was adequate.
In its motion for sanctions, Maricopa County said Lake’s counsel “brought frivolous arguments and frivolous claims before the Court. This conduct warrants meaningful sanctions.”
The county’s lawyer, Thomas Liddy, pointed to Lake’s counsel stating during the trial that “this election was rigged.”
“Lake and her counsel then failed to introduce any evidence during the three day trial to support this wrongful statement. Wrongfully and publicly asserting that the election was ‘rigged’ is heinous and profoundly harmful,” Liddy argued in his motion.
In his sanctions ruling, Thompson first laid out the standard for imposing sanctions under Arizona law. A judge can sanction an attorney “who brings or defends a claim without substantial justification or primarily for delay or harassment,” he wrote.
“The statute defines ‘without substantial justification’ as ‘groundless’ and ‘not made in good faith.’ A.R.S. § 12-349(F). A claim is ‘groundless’ if its proponent can present no rational argument based on the evidence or law to support it.”
Thompson then summarized Maricopa County’s view of Lake’s argument, writing, “She proceeded to trial on a claim she knew lacked factual merit based on her own witness’s statements.”
However, the judge wrote, “This view mistakenly looks beyond trial to the ultimate resolution of the merits and does not allow for presentation of evidence to prove a disputed claim.”
Rather, the whole point of the trial was to give Lake’s legal team the opportunity to prove its claim that “Maricopa County officials, instead of attempting to cure ballots, systematically pushed mismatched ballots through for tabulation without following the required procedures.”
Though Thompson concluded that Lake did not prove her claim with “clear and convincing” evidence to his satisfaction, that “does not equate to bringing a claim ‘without substantial justification’ as ‘groundless’ and ‘not made in good faith.'”
“Even if her argument did not prevail, Lake, through her witness, presented facts consistent with and in support of her legal argument,” he wrote.
Thompson went on to note it is natural during trial for parties’ rhetoric to get fiery.
“Opposing litigants in a heated dispute will naturally view the same evidence differently,” he wrote.
“The inferences one draws will be anathema to the other, and they may question each other’s good faith motivated simply by their conviction of their own cause and incomprehension at the conclusions of the other.”
Thompson concluded, “The proceedings in which the statements were made were Lake’s and the Defendants’ opportunity to argue their cases and present their evidence. They did so, and the Court ruled. Therefore, IT IS ORDERED denying Defendants’ Motion for Sanctions.”
Journalist and former Maricopa County attorney Rachel Alexander highlighted that Thompson did not even bother to address most of Maricopa’s sanctions claims, “brushing them off in a broad dismissal.”
One he did not address is Maricopa’s charge that Lake’s lawyers lied about county elections director Scott Jarrett’s testimony concerning the ballot-on-demand printer failures at polling places on Election Day.
Alexander tweeted concerning the board dismissal of claims, “That shows just how frivolous their request was.”
The judge in Kari Lake’s election contest dismissed MaRICOpa County’s motion for sanctions FAST, said her complaint wasn’t “groundless.” And he didn’t even bother going over all of their arguments! That shows just how frivolous their request was. https://t.co/9YqccBBR3D
— Rachel Alexander (@Rach_IC) May 27, 2023
Lake’s campaign celebrated Thompson’s ruling tweeting Friday, “The Judge has DENIED requests by Maricopa County & Katie Hobbs for sanctions against [Kari Lake.] We knew the Fake News narrative would collapse. Now it has. Kari Lake will NEVER stop fighting to restore election integrity to the people of Arizona!”
The Judge has DENIED requests by Maricopa County & Katie Hobbs for sanctions against @KariLake
We knew the Fake News narrative would collapse. Now it has.
Kari Lake will NEVER stop fighting to restore election integrity to the people of Arizona! pic.twitter.com/VC2daVYKhg
— Kari Lake War Room (@KariLakeWarRoom) May 27, 2023
Lake stated last week that she plans to appeal Thompson’s ruling concerning her overall election challenge suit.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.