Court grants Hobbs, Fontes’ motions for sanctions against Lake

Court grants Hobbs, Fontes’ motions for sanctions against Lake

Lake, Hobbs, Fontes, election, Supreme Court
Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023 on March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. The Arizona Supreme Court granted Gov. Katie Hobbs’ and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ motions for sanctions against Lake on May 4, 2023, for repeating baseless election fraud claims in court.(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Arizona Supreme Court granted Gov. Katie Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ motions for sanctions against Kari Lake for repeating baseless election fraud claims in court.

Lake’s claim that “the undisputed fact that 35,563 unaccounted for ballots were added to the total number of ballots” was deemed “unequivocally false” by the high court.

In the order, Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote, “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.”

The Court also denied Lake’s motion to reconsider the chain of custody claim premised on the “injection” of ballots claim.

The Arizona Supreme Court ruled on Lake’s appeal in March and denied review on all but one of her claims. A single claim on the signature verification process used by Maricopa County was remanded to the superior court as it was erroneously dismissed on laches.

In the ruling, Brutinel invited the parties to file sanctions on Lake’s factual claims and pointed out, “the record does not reflect that 35,563 unaccounted ballots were added to the total count.”

Lake’s attorney Bryan Blehm said the claim has been involved in the case, albeit without the exact 35,563 count, since the beginning.

Her counsel opposed sanctions and then asked the court “treat this response as a motion for reconsideration of the Court’s denial of review on this chain-of-custody issue.”

Blehm contended the lawsuit was brought in good faith as nobody could “doubt that Lake honestly believes that electoral misconduct and illegal votes determined the outcome of the 2022 gubernatorial election.”

Attorneys for Hobbs and Fontes filed replies calling for sanctions for the “frivolous” lawsuit brought “in bad faith.”

Abha Khanna, counsel for Hobbs, said Lake moved forward “without any factual basis.”

The 35,563 ballots Lake cites stem from a discrepancy in Runbeck Receipt of Delivery forms and the Runbeck Incoming Scan Receipts.

Khanna points out the scan receipt is an estimate, while the delivery receipt represents the actual ballot count.

She said, “Lake blatantly misrepresents the significance of the two trial exhibits to cobble together this outlandish claim.”

Craig Morgan, attorney for Fontes, said “sanctions are not just appropriate, they are essential.”

Lake then filed a “Reply In Support Of Cross-Motion For A Procedural Order For Leave To File A Motion For Reconsideration Of The Denial Of Her Petition For Review,” and once again argued for the revitalization of her chain-of-custody claim.

Morgan filed a motion to strike Lake’s attempt at an appeal and said the motions for reconsideration “frankly, made matters worse for Ms. Lake and her counsel as it pertains to the propriety of sanctions.”

The court denied Lake’s motion for reconsideration, as well as Fontes’ motion to strike.

Along with granting sanctions, the justices ordered Lake’s counsel to pay the Court $2,000, though they did not require Lake’s team to front the cost of Hobbs’ or Fontes’ attorneys’ fees.

“Sometimes campaigns and their attendant hyperbole spill over into legal challenges. But once a contest enters the judicial arena, rules of attorney ethics apply,” Brutinel wrote. “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 on which public confidence in our judicial system depends and where the truth-seeking function of our adjudicative process is unjustifiably hindered.”

Paul Smith-Leonard, spokesperson for Fontes, said “While we generally do not comment on pending legal matters, we are pleased with the Supreme Court’s Order and the accountability it requires of those who seek judicial redress.”

Lake’s single signature verification claim now goes to the superior court for further review.