Democrat Katie Hobbs is having a tough time since she took office in January as Arizona’s governor. As my colleague Brittany Sheehan reported on Friday, her chief of staff resigning was just the latest in a wave of departures from her office. (see Resignations Pile up in AZ Gov Katie Hobbs’ Administration as Chief of Staff Steps Down)
Earlier on Saturday, my colleague at sister site Townhall, Rachel Alexander wrote an op-ed about the ongoing legal battles over the results of the 2022 midterm elections that haven’t ended in the Copper state, including those for governor and state attorney general, for Republican candidates Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, respectively.
In December 2022, we wrote about then-Secretary of State and Governor-elect Hobbs, along with Maricopa County’s attorneys, seeking sanctions against Lake and her legal team for bringing the case about the election:
According to the suit, Maricopa County contends that “Before a single vote was counted in the 2022 general election, Kari Lake publicly stated that she would accept the results of the gubernatorial election only if she were the winning candidate” but that “she has not simply failed to publicly acknowledge the election results.”
Instead, the suit accuses Lake of filing “a groundless, seventy-page election contest lawsuit against the Governor-Elect, the Secretary of State, and Maricopa County and several of its elected officials and employees (but no other county or its employees), thereby dragging them and this Court into this frivolous pursuit.” […]
“Enough really is enough,” the Hobbs/Maricopa lawsuit states. “It is past time to end unfounded attacks on elections and unwarranted accusations against elections officials. This matter was brought without any legitimate justification, let alone a substantial one. The Maricopa County Defendants therefore ask this Court to impose sanctions against Plaintiff Kari Lake and her attorneys, Brian Blehm and Kurt Olsen.”
Aside from sanctions, the suit is also demanding $25,050 in attorney’s fees for Maricopa County’s legal counsel.
After an Arizona judge handed down a loss to Lake’s side on the election case, he has now rejected Hobbs’ and the county’s demand that she be punished with a sanction (fine):
After ruling against Kari Lake in a remanded election trial challenging her gubernatorial loss to Katie Hobbs, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson rejected Maricopa County’s motion for sanctions against Lake on Friday, just three days after their attorneys filed the request. The county’s attorneys asserted that Lake’s team made several false statements to the court. Lake’s attorneys filed a response opposing the request on Thursday.
Thompson laid out the standard for awarding sanctions. He cited A.R.S. § 12-349, which states that sanctions are warranted where a party “brings or defends a claim without substantial justification or primarily for delay or harassment, unreasonably expands or delays the proceeding, or engages in abuse of discovery.” Thompson added, “The statute defines ‘without substantial justification’ as ‘groundless’ and ‘not made in good faith.
Thompson addressed one of the defendants’ claims specifically, but didn’t even bother going over the rest of them, brushing them off in a broad dismissal. The claim he went over was the assertion that “Lake ‘unnecessarily expanded these proceedings’ by intentionally misstating the content of a witness’s testimony in her Rule 60 motion and that she proceeded to trial on a claim she knew lacked factual merit based on her own witness’s statements.” Thompson cited Lake’s accusation that “Maricopa County officials, instead of attempting to cure ballots, systematically pushed mismatched ballots through for tabulation without following the required procedures.”
Thompson disagreed with the defendants’ characterization of the standard for sanctions. He said, “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.”
He explained, “Plaintiff’s failure to establish her claim by clear and convincing evidence 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.”
As for the rest of the claims, he said in the short 4-page ruling, “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 said the arguments Lake’s attorneys made did not “stray from advocacy into misconduct,” and pointed out that “[O]pposing litigants in a heated dispute” will “question each other’s good faith motivated simply by their conviction of their own cause and incomprehension at the conclusions of the other.”
Friday’s ruling by Judge Thompson doesn’t mean that Lake hasn’t been laden with hundreds of thousands of dollars in sanctions and fees up to this point,which included the opposing side’s court costs.
Lake is expected to appeal the judge’s decision on her election suit. You can read more on Lake’s attorney’s arguments on the sanctions case here, as well.
As for Gov. Hobbs, as mentioned up top, her administration is looking pretty shabby in the national spotlight right about now. Maybe Hobbs should look into tidying her own glass house, instead of throwing any more stones at someone else’s.