kari lake
Kari Lake Argues For Dismissal Of Maricopa County Recorder’s Defamation Lawsuit

December 20, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

On Tuesday the legal team for former GOP gubernatorial candidate, now Senate candidate, Kari Lake argued for the dismissal of Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit against her.

Richer filed his defamation lawsuit against Lake in June over her claims of his administration of the 2022 election. Lake filed a motion to dismiss in August. 

In his amended complaint, Richer alleged that Lake had “falsely and with actual malice” accused him of intentionally printing improperly-sized ballots and inserting 300,000 illegal or invalid early-vote ballots during his administration of the 2022 general election. Richer said that the accusations have caused him and his family real harm, including threats of violence and death. 

Lake’s motion to dismiss argued that she voiced legitimate concerns about the 2022 election, and that Richer’s lawsuit amounted to retaliation following two failed attempts at obtaining sanctions against her. In those denied requests for sanctions, Maricopa County Superior Court found that Lake’s claims weren’t groundless or brought forth in bad faith.

“The types of statements that Recorder Richer complains of are the types of statements directly related to his job performance that political foes and constituents critical of elected officials ordinarily make,” read the motion. 

During Tuesday’s arguments in the Maricopa County Superior Court, one of Richer’s attorneys, Cameron Kistler, said that Lake’s speech wasn’t hyperbole, but a statement of facts. 

“She’s making statements where she’s asserting these are actual facts that happened in the world, these are actual accusations of falsifiable criminal conduct,” said Kistler. 

Jen Wright, the former assistant attorney general serving on Lake’s team, countered that Lake did believe her speech to be true based on the facts at hand: the county’s admission that there were ballots that lacked chain of custody, and that printer problems did occur for some, still unknown reason. 

“I don’t think it’s a question of fact as to whether or not the printers malfunctioned, it’s a question of opinion as to how they characterized them,” said Wright. 

Richer accused Lake of issuing dozens of defamatory statements.

Jessica Banks-McDowell, an Arizona State University (ASU) law student on Lake’s team, said that court precedent clarifies that Richer’s intent via his filings is to stifle Lake’s speech. ASU’s First Amendment Clinic signed onto Lake’s defense. 

“There is very clear intent of his motivation to deter, retaliate against, or prevent Kari Lake’s lawful speech,” said Banks-McDowell.

Richer seeks an injunction that would force Lake to delete the allegedly defamatory statements.

Banks-McDowell further argued that Richer hadn’t met the burden of proving defamation occurred as required by A.R.S. 12-751, Arizona’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law. 

Kistler said that the anti-SLAPP law didn’t apply here because Lake’s team didn’t provide evidence to prove Lake’s disputed statements as true. 

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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