Judge Slaps Down Demand to Sanction Kari Lake Following Election Lawsuits


OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.

Former Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake got some more good news from a state judge on Friday in regard to her 2022 election lawsuits.

Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson denied a request to sanction Lake over her lawsuits following her loss to now-Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, who, along with Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, also a Democrat, had filed a motion seeking them.

Thompson ruled last Monday after a three-day trial that Lake’s legal team failed to provide adequate evidence to support their claim that Maricopa County did not adhere to Arizona law during the signature review process for mail-in ballots in the general election.

In his ruling, Thompson noted that Lake’s legal team found 274,000 signatures during the trial that were compared in under two seconds and 70,000 signatures that were reviewed in under one second.

But he also noted that there is no set time limit to review signatures in Arizona law, leaving Maricopa County recorder Stephen Richer to determine what was and was not appropriate review time.


In a motion for sanctions, Maricopa County argued that Lake “brought frivolous arguments and frivolous claims before the Court. This conduct warrants meaningful sanctions.” 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 a motion.

But in his ruling regarding the sanction request, Thompson initially explained the standard for imposing them under state law. He noted that a judge can sanction an attorney “who brings or defends a claim without substantial justification or primarily for delay or harassment.”

“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,” he wrote, before going on to summarize Maricopa County’s view of Lake’s argument: “She proceeded to trial on a claim she knew lacked factual merit based on her own witness’s statements.”

Thompson wrote: “This view mistakenly looks beyond trial to the ultimate resolution of the merits and does not allow for the presentation of evidence to prove a disputed claim.”

In fact, the judge noted that the entire point of having a trial was to give the plaintiff the opportunity to prove that “Maricopa County officials, instead of attempting to cure ballots, systematically pushed mismatched ballots through for tabulation without following the required procedures.”


So, while Thompson ultimately ruled that Lake was unable to prove her claim with “clear and convincing” evidence to the court’s 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.

“Opposing litigants in a heated dispute will naturally view the same evidence differently,” he noted further.


“The inferences one draws will be anathema to the other, and they may question each other’s good faith motivated simply by the conviction of their own cause and incomprehension at the conclusions of the other,” Thompson’s ruling continued.

The judge 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 Rachel Alexander, a former Maricopa County attorney, pointed out that Thompson didn’t even address most of Maricopa’s sanctions claims, “brushing them off in a broad dismissal.”

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