Sanctions Ordered by Judge in Lake, Finchem Case

Arizona's Republican nominee for Secretary of State, Mark Finkem, and Republican gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake.

Arizona’s Republican nominee for Secretary of State, Mark Finkem, and Republican gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake.

In a sizzling 30-page opinion, a federal judge ordered sanctions against attorneys Kari Lake and Mark Finkem in a lawsuit against voting machines.

Lake and Finkem, pro-Trump Republicans who failed to run for governor and secretary of state, filed a lawsuit in April to stop Maricopa and Pima counties from using electronic devices to vote or tally. caused They asked the court to order counties to require paper ballots and to count hands on all ballots cast.

U.S. District Judge John Tucci dismissed the case in August, saying it was filled with “speculative allegations of possible injury.”

Before being fired, five members of the Republican-dominated Maricopa County Oversight Board (defendants in the case) accused the candidate and his attorney of “many lies about the Arizona election” in a federal complaint. It sought sanctions against “allegations of

In his order to impose sanctions on Thursday, Tuchi delivered a strong punch to the allegations made by Lake, Finchem and their lawyers in what he deemed “frivolous complaints.”

Plaintiffs sought “massive and perhaps unprecedented federal judicial intervention” to change Arizona’s electoral system ahead of the recent election, but “they approach the burden of such factual It had no basis or legal theory,” the judge wrote.

Later in the 30-page order, he added, “We will not tolerate lawsuits … promoting false narratives that unfoundedly undermine public confidence at a time when disinformation and mistrust about the democratic process is on the rise.”

Bill Gates, chairman of the county oversight board, said in a statement that the sanctions would be a “victory for the rule of law” and would serve as a result of people filing baseless and fruitless lawsuits.

“In recent years there have been too many examples of lawyers trying to weaponize the courts for political purposes,” he said. , these attorneys must be held accountable.”

Out-of-state lawyers used by Lake and Finchem include Alan Dershowitz, an internationally renowned lawyer, author, and Harvard Law School professor, according to court records. His three attorneys at Parker Daniels Kibort LLC in Minnesota: Andrew Parker, Jesse Kibort, and Joseph Pull. Kurt Olsen, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney who assisted in a lawsuit challenging the 2020 election results, has been dismissed by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dershowitz, the only attorney to reply to a message seeking comment, emailed the following response:

“I have never challenged the results of the Arizona election,” Dershowitz wrote. “I have provided legal advice on future use of vote-counting machines by companies that refuse to disclose the inner workings of the machines. We support full transparency in all counting of votes on a partisan basis.”

Lake and Finchem did not return messages for comment for this article.

‘Simply False’ Claim: Judge Asserts Paper-Based Voting System

Lake and Finkem’s lawsuit was filed after Republican lawmakers failed to pass important election-procedure changes they had sought during this year’s legislative session. The complaint reflected conspiracy theories about the Dominion voting system and vote counting machines put forward by former President Donald Trump and his legal team after he lost the 2020 presidential election to President Joe Biden.

The plaintiff made certain falsehoods in the lawsuit that Tuchi determined was sanctionable.

They claimed that Arizona voters wouldn’t vote with paper ballots, which is “just plain wrong,” Tuchi wrote.

Plaintiffs allege in their complaint that they never argued in their lawsuit that the system was not based on paper ballots, which is also wrong, writes Tuchi. and Finchem gave specific examples, such as where they said they had to vote “through an electronic voting system,” and overall, the lawsuit said Arizona did not have “auditable paper ballots.” A voting system based on what it said had “overarching implications.” ”

Tucci said the lawsuit attacks the county’s use of “optical scanners and ballot marking devices,” even though 99.98% of voters in Maricopa County marked their ballots themselves. Did.

“A system that uses paper ballots to record votes and electronic machines to tally them remains a ‘paper-based voting system,'” Tuchi wrote. Glossary database.

If it wasn’t paper-based, Cyber ​​Ninjas, the contractor used by the state Senate in last year’s partisan audit of the 2020 election, wouldn’t have been able to examine some of the paper ballots.

The false allegations spawned the “strowman” argument that played a central role in the basis of the lawsuit, Tuchi found.

The lawsuit also alleges that the Dominion voting system equipment used by the county was “inadequate and lacking an objective evaluation.” That’s also wrong, Tutsi said, because it’s been tested by “experts and testing laboratories accredited by the Election Assistance Commission.”

“Plaintiffs and their experts may have the right to comment on the sufficiency of the tests the Arizona machine has undergone, but they have no right to argue that no such tests have been performed.

Other claims exposed: Internet connection, lack of independent testing

Mr Tutsi also considered several other allegations in the lawsuit that were concerning but did not meet the legal standard for imposing sanctions.

The Lake and Finkem lawsuit argued that Maricopa County’s voting machines were improperly connected to the Internet “well-founded.” But, according to Tuchi, a special master assigned by state senators and former U.S. Congressman John Shadeg found what the county was saying: the machines were not connected to the internet. Stated.

President of the Senate Karen Huang said in March Shadegg’s findings should bring some conclusion to this issue.

Another false allegation in the lawsuit is that the tallying machine used by the county has not been independently tested by an expert, the opinion said.

But these issues, along with the county’s claim that Lake and Finkem filed the lawsuit “to further their political campaigns,” along with other claims that were speculative did not merit sanctions.

No matter how much “weight” is given to Lake and Finkem’s evidence, the case remains deeply flawed. is writing

Lake and Finchem made false claims about voting procedures and electoral intrigue, which are key issues in the election. Lake sued He opposed Maricopa County.

Sanctions designed to discourage “baseless submissions” by other attorneys

Under court rules, sanctions “must be limited” to those necessary to deter future similar acts, the opinion said. However, it is their lawyer who “signed and submitted the document in question”.

“Approving the plaintiff’s defense here does not take the plaintiff off the hook,” Tuchi wrote. It is to punish the conduct of certain attorneys with the broader purpose of deterring submissions.”

The order means that attorneys are “jointly and severally liable” for county attorney fees, meaning that each person is legally responsible for paying the full amount.

County officials on Thursday did not have an estimate of attorney fees in the case.

A final sanction order will not be issued for at least one month. Tuchi gave the county two weeks to file the total amount of attorney fees incurred since the lawsuit was first filed. Plaintiff then has two weeks to file a response as to the “reasonableness” of the charges.

Please contact reporters at [email protected] or 480-276-3237. follow him on twitter @raystern.

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This article originally appeared in the Republic of Arizona. Judge Tears Lake, File Finchem Lawsuit With Voting Machines, Orders Sanctions