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Supreme Court refuses to stop Cortes’ hearing

Senate President Russell Pearce and Olivia Cortes

The Arizona Supreme Court today refused to stop a lower court from hearing new witnesses in the lawsuit that’s seeking to disqualify recall candidate Olivia Cortes.

That evidentiary hearing is scheduled for Friday.

But the high court said it would consider at some future date Cortes’ plea to dismiss the lawsuit against her.

Cortes’ lawyer, Anthony Tsontakis, had asked the Supreme Court today to stop the Friday hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court and to declare the case against the beleaguered recall candidate quashed.

Ballots have already been printed for the Nov. 8 special election targeting Senate President Russell Pearce, and the lawsuit against Cortes should be moot, said Tsontakis, who earlier successfully defended Cortes against a temporary restraining order seeking to kick her off the ballot.

“As far as we’re concerned, this lawsuit is over. The judge should not have the authority, in our opinion, to reopen the evidentiary hearing,” Tsontakis told the Arizona Capitol Times. “We’re doing this because we need extraordinary relief to get rid of this lawsuit. It’s an abuse of the legal process — what the other side is doing.”

In pleading for the high court to intervene in the case, Tsontakis charged that Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward Burke abused his discretion in allowing a new evidentiary hearing against his client.

Burke scheduled the Friday hearing to allow new witnesses to testify in the lawsuit that seeks to disqualify Cortes from the recall election.

On Monday, the judge refused to grant a preliminary injunction seeking to boot Cortes off the ballot, though he said he said it is clear Pearce’s supporters helped Cortes get on the ballot to divert votes from Jerry Lewis, Pearce’s main contender.

Burke said it’s not the court’s job to divine candidates’ motivations.

But he also rejected Cortes’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit that alleges she’s a “diversionary” candidate who’s running to siphon votes from Lewis.

In an email, Randy Parraz, a Pearce critic and one of the organizers of the recall effort, said new witnesses should be allowed to testify “especially (if) they can establish a connection between the Pearce campaign and the Cortes campaign.”

“Voters have a right to know this information now,” Parraz said.

Thomas Ryan, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit against Cortes on behalf of a Mesa resident, earlier admitted it’d be difficult to remove Cortes’ name from the ballot at this point, but he said the court could still declare her candidacy null.

“It could agree that the new information raises evidence that had not been obtained before nor could it have been obtained before, and it could have her candidacy declared null and void,” he said.

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