Lake’s Election Challenge Appeal Won’t Be Expedited To Supreme Court

Lake’s Election Challenge Appeal Won’t Be Expedited To Supreme Court

By Terri Jo Neff |

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake must start her election challenge appeal at the Arizona Court of Appeals – Division 1, rejecting Lake’s argument for a transfer of the case in hopes of expedited handling.

The order declining Lake’s request to bypass a three-judge panel at the court of appeals in Phoenix noted “no good cause appears to transfer the matter to this court.” It also noted there had already been a scheduling order issued in case with possible oral argument slated for Jan.24.

It is a decision Lake appears to have accepted.   

The defendants in Lake’s election challenge include the five members of the Maricopa County board of supervisors, the county’s two elections directors, and Recorder Stephen Richer. Katie Hobbs was also a defendant in her official capacity as Arizona Secretary of State at the time of the election.

The courts have now substituted Adrian Fontes as the defendant in his role as the new secretary of state, although Hobbs remains a defendant in her personal capacity as a contestee for governor.

Lake filed on Dec. 30 to have the Arizona Court of Appeals overturn the findings made by Judge Peter Thompson of the Maricopa County Superior Court, who denied Lake’s election challenge on Dec. 24 after a two-day trial.

Then, as reported by AZ Free News, Lake’s attorneys filed a petition the next day to transfer the appeal directly to the Arizona Supreme Court.

The three judges assigned to the panel that will hear Lake’s appeal are Maria Elena Cruz, Angela K.  Paton, and Peter B. Swann. 

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

University of Phoenix Hosted ‘Equity Challenge’ for Staff

University of Phoenix Hosted ‘Equity Challenge’ for Staff

By Corinne Murdock |

Last month, the University of Phoenix hosted a 21-day “equity challenge” for its staff. The challenge was voluntary for faculty and staff, and hosted by the Office of Educational Equity. 

Focus areas for the challenge included allyship, disability, education, health care, interpersonal and institutional racism, and understanding privilege. This was the second year that the university hosted the challenge.

The director of student diversity and inclusion, Tondra Richardson, stated that the equity challenge ensured participants developed social justice outlooks for taking up leadership roles.

“This year’s challenge focused on giving participants the practical resources needed to develop inclusive leadership skills,” stated Richardson. “This year we also gave participants the opportunity to earn the Inclusive Leader: Commitment to Equity Badge, which allowed participants to demonstrate a tangible commitment to putting empathy, compassion, and curiosity into action.”

A project marketing manager for the university, Ivy Wong, testified that the challenge reconditioned her thinking on her own cultural awareness deficiencies. 

“It is a rare opportunity to take a step back to reflect on my own inherent bias, as well as my social and cultural conditioning,” said Wong. “After these few weeks, I have more self-awareness and know what I need to unlearn and relearn.”

The challenge stemmed from an eponymous organization launched by Eddie Moore, a longtime diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) advocate and founder of another social justice education organization, The Privilege Institute. Moore tailored his organization’s content for the university. 

The organization suggests the first day’s challenge to be a study of a “Becoming Anti-Racist” graphic. The organization misattributed the graphic to activist Ibram X. Kendi — a doctor by the name of Andrew Ibrahim created the graphic. 

The graphic charts an individual’s progression through three “zones” that one must advance through to become anti-racist: the “fear zone,” in which individuals deny racism is a problem and speak with others that look and think like them; the “learning zone,” in which individuals recognize racism is a present and current problem, understand their privilege in ignoring racism, educate themselves about race and structural racism, and admit vulnerability to biases and knowledge gaps; and the “growth zone,” in which individuals identify that they unknowingly benefit from racism, promote and advocate for anti-racist policies and leaders, dwell in discomfort, speak out against racism, educate peers on racism in their profession, yield positions of power to those otherwise marginalized, and surround themselves with others that look and think differently than them. 

The University of Phoenix will follow up this 21-day challenge and promote a “National Day of Racial Healing” with an “Inclusive Cafe” next Wednesday. The university will also host a webinar series on Jan. 19 teaching staff and faculty how to continue their commitment to equity in 2023.

Past equity-focused webinar series have discussed how ableism leads to inequality, how others should serve indigenous communities, and what racism is. 

In defining racism, the university defined racism as the exploitation, control, and violence directed at non-white people. The focus on defining racism declared that the concept of race was invented with the colonization and founding of the U.S., and that racism is a problem perpetuated by favoritism of whiteness. 

The University of Phoenix also has a Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research, which offers fellowships for faculty, students, and alumni. Fellows research an advanced version of the DEI term: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB). 

The university will also have a second annual Inclusive Leadership Summit from May 2-4. 

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

Gov. Katie Hobbs Keeps Inauguration Donations Secret

Gov. Katie Hobbs Keeps Inauguration Donations Secret

By Corinne Murdock |

Gov. Katie Hobbs won’t disclose how much her inauguration ceremony will cost, or how much donors paid for it. Hobbs’ decision to withhold the donors’ identities not only contradicts her campaign promises but past administrations’ transparency on the subject.

Hobbs listed 137 sponsors for the event, but didn’t disclose how much they paid. 

Sponsors include the Arizona Education Association, APS, Arizona Coyotes, Banner Health, BlueCross BlueShield, Boeing, Cigna, Cox, CVS, Deloitte, Gila River Indian Community, Greater Phoenix Leadership, Healthcare Rising Arizona, Horizon Strategies, Human Rights Campaign, Intel, Motorola, Pepsico, Phoenix Suns, PhRMA, Southwest Gas, SRP, Comcast, Amazon, Anheusesr-Busch, CoreCivic, Lockheed Martin, Paypal, and Safelite. 

Tickets were $150 for the public to attend. Following widespread reporting on the lack of transparency around the event, ticket registration was listed as free.

In a statement to Arizona Capitol Times, Hobbs’ press aide Murphy Hebert said the event is a private one not paid for with public funds.

The secretive nature of Hobbs’ first days in office may be a lasting trait throughout her administration. The governor barred reporters from attending a swearing-in ceremony on Monday. 

Hobbs’ first promise when she announced her candidacy for governor was to “deliver transparency.” 

Hobbs continued that promise throughout her campaign, right up to the election.

Hobbs’ bio on the newly revamped governor’s website also promises transparency from this new administration.

“A fearless advocate for Arizona, Katie will bring transparency and accountability to the governor’s office and deliver real results for all of us,” reads the bio. “Katie knows firsthand that government only works well if it’s led well. For Katie, that means transparency and accountability.”

Those interested in watching the inauguration ceremony may do so here:

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

Hobbs’ First Executive Order Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination

Hobbs’ First Executive Order Prohibits Gender Identity Discrimination

By Corinne Murdock |

Governor Katie Hobbs’ first executive order prohibits gender identity discrimination in state employment and contracts.

The order directs the Department of Administration to establish procedures by April 1, 2023 regarding gender identity discrimination. The order also directed the department to launch awareness campaigns throughout state government through internal communications and trainings.


Hobbs’ order declared that over 40 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals nationwide report “unfair treatment” at work, such as firings, harassment, or not being hired due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. The order also noted that 83 percent of the Fortune 500 companies prohibit gender identity discrimination; those numbers came directly from a Human Rights Campaign report

The 40 percent estimate appears to have originated from a 2021 study from a UCLA Law think tank. Their survey covered just over 900 LGBTQ+ adults about their lifetime, five-year, and past-year discrimination experiences. 46 percent of these respondents reported experiencing unfair treatment at some point in their lives, with just nine percent experiencing discrimination in 2021. 

The think tank estimated that about 8 million American workers identify as LGBTQ+ — if nine percent of that estimate experienced discrimination in 2021, that would amount to just over 720,000 people. Other activist groups’ estimates place the total LGBTQ+ population at a much higher number: over 20 million. 

Hobbs’ order could be viewed as a natural progression of policy initiated by a 2020 Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision.

Former attorney general Mark Brnovich interpreted existing anti-discrimination protections to include both sexual orientation and gender identity in a 2020 filing for the case Bruer v. State of Arizona. His filing followed the SCOTUS decision in Bostock v. Clayton County which determined that employers can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Brnovich said that the state legislature would have to amend the Arizona Civil Rights Act to exclude sexual orientation and gender identity specifically if they disagreed with this interpretation.

The state already prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation in a 2003 executive order issued by former Governor Janet Napolitano — the last Democrat elected as governor prior to Hobbs. 

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

Katie Hobbs Laughed When Asked If She Will Uphold Constitution During Inauguration

Katie Hobbs Laughed When Asked If She Will Uphold Constitution During Inauguration

By Corinne Murdock |

Governor Katie Hobbs laughed when asked if she would uphold the Arizona Constitution during her swearing in on Monday.

The individual to swear in Hobbs was her longtime lawyer, ally, and friend: Roopali Desai, a recent Biden appointee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Hobbs exhibited nervous excitement: she required multiple prompts from Desai to finish taking her oath of office.

“Stop it!” exclaimed Hobbs. 

Reporters weren’t welcome at the swearing-in, save for one photographer from the Associated Press. Press arrived to the cover the event. They weren’t allowed inside. 

All reporters were directed to a Facebook livestream to witness Hobbs’ swearing-in. 


However, reporters will be allowed in the inauguration ceremony on Jan. 5. 

After Hobbs took the oath of office, she claimed in a statement that partisanship wouldn’t define her administration. Hobbs promised to work with leaders of all political persuasions, specifically naming public school funding, water security, legalized abortion, and cost of living as initial priorities. 

“Today marks a new chapter for Arizona. As we look forward to a brighter future, I pledge that the needs of Arizonans – not partisan politics – will always come first,” stated Hobbs. 

The governor’s promise follows reporting that revealed Hobbs holds a different outlook on GOP leaders in private. Last month, Hobbs remarked during the Democratic Governors Association annual meeting that she wouldn’t communicate with GOP leaders due to strained relationships.

Hobbs is Arizona’s first Democratic governor elected in 16 years. 

Hobbs’ first executive order prohibited state employment or contract discrimination based on gender identity. The order was issued as part of her “First 100 Days Initiative.” 

One of her first moves as governor was to announce a Day of Service on Tuesday. Hobbs encouraged Arizonans to volunteer with their local nonprofits. The governor plans on volunteering with the Arizona Service Project. 

Adrian Fontes (secretary of state), Kris Mayes (attorney general), Kimberly Yee (state treasurer), Tom Horne (superintendent of public instruction), and Paul Marsh (state mine inspector) were also sworn into office.  

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

Gov. Ducey Appointed Six New Judges to Appeals Court in Final Days of Administration

Gov. Ducey Appointed Six New Judges to Appeals Court in Final Days of Administration

By Corinne Murdock |

As one of his last acts as governor, Doug Ducey appointed six judges to the Arizona Court of Appeals. 

Ducey appointed Michael Catlett, Anni Hill Foster, and Daniel Kiley to Division I, and Lacey Stover Gard, Michael Kelly, and Christopher O’Neil to Division II. 

In a press release, Ducey cited the increasing popularity of Arizona as a new home state as the reason for this large slate of appointments.

“These new judges will provide the much needed resources for the Court of Appeals to handle its growing caseload as more and more people choose Arizona as a place to live, work, and start a business,” said Ducey. “Each of these individuals are exceptionally talented and principled. They will faithfully uphold the law, defend the Constitution, and respect the separation of powers. I am proud to have these judges serve the State of Arizona on the Court of Appeals.”

Catlett was the former deputy solicitor general under former Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Prior to that, Catlett was a partner at a law firm, Quarles & Brady. Catlett offers pro bono legal services to Paralyzed Veterans of America, the U.S. District Court’s self-represented litigant clinic, and the Ninth Circuit’s pro bono program. 

Foster served as Ducey’s general counsel, and formerly served as deputy general counsel. Prior to that, Foster served as general counsel for the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and the assistant attorney general at the attorney general’s office. Foster is involved with the Arizona State Bar and the Maricopa County Bar Association. She also serves as a commissioner for the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice, and volunteered in the past with the Arizona State University (ASU) Law Pipeline Program. 

Kiley has been the Maricopa County Superior Court judge for over a decade, currently serving as the presiding judge of the Lower Court and Administrative Appeals Department. Prior to the superior court, Kiley practiced at the law firm Sherman & Howard, and prosecuted for the attorney general’s office. Kiley volunteers currently with Maggie’s Place, a nonprofit for homeless pregnant women, and formerly volunteered with My Sister’s Place, a domestic violence shelter.

Gard has served as a Pinal County Superior Court judge since 2021. Prior to that, Gard worked in the attorney general’s office as deputy solicitor general and chief counsel of the Capital Litigation Section as well as assistant attorney general in the Criminal Appeals Section. Gard also taught at the University of Arizona College of Law. 

Kelly comes from the Hollingsworth Kelly law firm. He formerly worked with the Pima County Attorney’s Office as a prosecuting attorney. Kelly volunteers pro bono legal services for Step Up to Justice. He formerly served as a board member for the Southern Arizona Legal Aid organization, which provides free legal services, as well as the Tucson Village Farm, an urban farm support organization. 

O’Neil has served as a Pinal County Superior Court judge. Prior to that, O’Neil was a Casa Grande Municipal Court judge, a staff attorney for the Pinal County Superior Court, and then an attorney for the Haralson, Miller, Pitt, Feldman, & McAnally law firm. O’Neil volunteers as City of Casa Grande Youth Soccer League coach, Cactus School Mock Trial Team advisor, and Casa Grande pastor. 

Ducey’s work as governor is available on a new archiving site, “The Ducey Years.”

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