kari lake
Arizona Supreme Court Remands Lake Case, Issues Sanctions

May 6, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Supreme Court granted sanctions against 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, declaring that her lawyer issued false statements to the court.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel issued the sanctions on Thursday in Lake v. Hobbs, totaling $2,000 for that improper conduct. Brutinel rejected Gov. Katie Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ request for attorneys fees sanctions. He also remanded the unresolved issue of faulty signature verification to the trial court. 

Lake alleged that Maricopa County violated A.R.S. § 16-550(A); she claimed that a material number of early ballots were transmitted in envelopes containing an affidavit signature that election officials accepted despite determining that it didn’t match the signature on that voter’s registration record. 

This $2,000 in sanctions narrowly concerned the conduct of Lake’s attorney, specifically the claim that additional ballots were added into the final vote count.

The court called Lake’s claims of ballot chain-of-custody claims “colorable,” remarking that Lake continued to promote these claims despite the court’s rejection of them. 

Brutinel noted that there was leeway for political rhetoric, but that upholding attorney ethics remained necessary. Brutinel noted that he was careful to approve punitive measures that would appear politically vindictive. 

“Sometimes campaigns and their attendant hyperbole spill over into legal challenges. But once a contest enters the judicial arena, rules of attorney ethics apply,” wrote Brutinel. “Although we must ensure that legal sanctions are never wielded against candidates or their attorneys for asserting their legal rights in good faith, we also must diligently enforce the rules of ethics in which public confidence in our judicial system depends and where the truth-seeking function of our adjudicative process is unjustifiably hindered.”

In an April fundraising email, Fontes had called for Lake to be punished in such a way as others wouldn’t file similar legal challenges in the future.

“This [lawsuit] justifies the imposition of sanctions, or some kind of admonishment, so others will not follow suit,” stated the response. “If this Court sits silent in the face of what has occurred, then those who would due [sic] our union harm will continue to malign and erode the foundations upon which our great state stands.”

Fontes celebrated the $2,000 sanctions against Lake, though they fell far short of the initial ask by his and Hobbs’ teams.

Lake’s team has continued to claim as an “undisputed” fact that over 35,500 ballots were added or “injected” at Runbeck Election Services’ processing, the third-party vendor. The court stated that this wasn’t true because election officials have disputed her claims. 

“Not only is that allegation strongly disputed by the other parties, this Court concluded and expressly stated that the assertion was unsupported by the record, and nothing in Lake’s Motion for Leave to file a motion for reconsideration provides reason to revisit that issue,” stated the court. “Although Lake may have permissibly argued that an inference could be made that some ballots were added, there is no evidence that 35,563 ballots were, and more to the point here, this was certainly disputed by the Respondents. The representation that this was an ‘undisputed fact’ is therefore unequivocally false.”

Lake championed Tuesday’s ruling as an overall win, focusing on the court’s order to review her claims of faulty signature verification processes.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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