A federal judge ordered sanctions against attorneys representing failed Republican candidates Mark Finchem and Kari Lake in their lawsuit against the Secretary of State and Maricopa County that sought to ban the use of electronic vote tabulators and force a hand count of ballots.
Claims made in Finchem and Lake’s suit, particularly relating to electronic tabulation machines, echo in new lawsuits, board meetings and certain sects of the general public.
The judge wrote that the order should not be seen as undermining the importance of ensuring election security. But the sanctions make clear the court will not tolerate claims of fraud without factual foundation.
Judge John Tuchi found the attorneys “acted recklessly or in bad faith” as their clients “made false, misleading, and unsupported factual assertions,” including asserting that Arizona elections did not already use paper ballots.
The judge also found that plaintiffs, relying on testimony from Cyber Ninja Doug Logan, attempted to compare vote tabulation machines used in Maricopa County to electronic voting machines used in other states, including those with potential security vulnerabilities.
“Using these broader terms allowed Plaintiffs to misleadingly analogize the machines used in Arizona to those used in other jurisdictions,” Tuchi wrote.
Under the order, Lake and Finchem’s counsel, which includes Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, is now responsible for paying Maricopa County’s attorneys’ fees.
The judge did not impose sanctions on Finchem, who ran for secretary of state or Lake, who ran for governor, individually. Though the order found the two acted, “far from” appropriately.
“To sanction Plaintiffs’ counsel here is not to let Plaintiffs off the hook,” he wrote. “It is to penalize specific attorney conduct with the broader goal of deterring similarly baseless filings initiated by anyone, whether an attorney or not.”
Lawyers on behalf of Finchem and Lake filed the suit in April.
The complaint sought to prohibit electronic voting machines until the equipment was, “secure from manipulation or intrusion.” Allegations drew from national claims of tabulation machine vulnerabilities but failed to include concrete claims in Arizona’s elections.
In June, counsel for Lake and Finchem filed a motion for preliminary injunction and it was met with motions to dismiss.
Tuchi dismissed the case in August. And the county filed a motion for sanctions shortly after that.
In the order, Tuchi clarified the sanctions are not to discourage the process to challenge elections.
“It is to make clear that the Court will not condone litigants ignoring the steps that Arizona has already taken toward this end and furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process,” according to the order.
Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, a defendant in the dismissed suit, issued a statement along a similar line.
“As a former election day lawyer for the Arizona Republican Party, I have deep respect for the election contest process,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen too many examples in recent years of attorneys trying to weaponize the court for political purposes.”
Lake tweeted in response to the statement.
“Five months ago, I ‘questioned’ the use of your machines, Bill. Do you remember what happened on Election Day? We the People remember,” Lake wrote.
Lake is continuing to pursue litigation. Her attorneys filed a suit requesting expedited response to an information request on printing and tabulation machine problems across Maricopa County polling stations on Election Day.
The case’s next hearing is set for Dec. 7.
Yellow Sheet Editor Wayne Schutsky contributed to this report.