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Arizona Judge Refuses to Sanction Kari Lake, Finding That Her Election Lawsuit Was ‘Not Successful’ But ‘Not Groundless’

Kari Lake at Turning Point Action

Kari Lake at Turning Point Action (Screenshot via video on her Twitter account)

An Arizona judge declined to issue sanctions against defeated gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, finding that the election challenge that she filed was “not successful” but also “not groundless.”

“There is no doubt that each side believes firmly in its position with great conviction,” Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson wrote in a three-page minute order Tuesday. “The fact that Plaintiff failed to meet the burden of clear and convincing evidence required for each element of [the relevant state code] does not equate to a finding that her claims were, or were not, groundless and presented in bad faith.”

Thompson noted that passions surrounding the case are high.

“Any legal decision must be based on the law and facts rather than subjective beliefs or partisan opinions, no matter how strongly held,” the judge added. “The Court has heard all the evidence and arguments. The Court has carefully examined and thought through the facts and evidence before it in the motions and at the hearing.”

On Christmas Eve, Thompson found that Lake lost a “valid election” and failed to produce any evidence of intentional misconduct.

“Every one of Plaintiff’s witnesses – and for that matter, Defendants’ witnesses as well – was asked about any personal knowledge of both intentional misconduct and intentional misconduct directed to impact the 2022 General Election,” Thompson wrote on Saturday. “Every single witness before the Court disclaimed any personal knowledge of such misconduct. The Court cannot accept speculation or conjecture in place of clear and convincing evidence.”

There were, however, problems with the printer and tabulator machines in Maricopa County, Arizona, which caused delays. The judge saw no evidence that any election official intentionally caused those issues, finding that they had been “performing their role with integrity.”

“Not perfectly, as no system on this earth is perfect, but more than sufficient to comply with the law and conduct a valid election,” Thompson added at the time.

On Monday, Governor-elect Katie Hobbs (D) and Maricopa County officials moved to level heavy sanctions against Lake. Hobbs alone asked for Lake and her lawyers to have to foot a more than $550,000 legal bill, but in the end, the judge refused.

Thompson did find, however, that certain costs for witness fees were warranted under the law, both in Hobbs’s capacity as Arizona’s current Secretary of State and in her separate capacity as its future governor.

“Defendant, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, has presented her request for $5,900.00 in expert witness fees for Mr. Ryan Macias who was retained as an expert and testified at the hearing,” the judge wrote. “A separate request for expert witness fees in the amount of $22,451.00 was submitted by Defendant, Katie Hobbs sued in capacity as Governor-Elect.”

Thompson found those fees “appropriate.”

Though the Grand Canyon State judge would not sanction Lake or her attorneys, a federal judge issued sanctions against her counsel in a related case. That judge found the attorneys “recklessly” caused a “frivolous” complaint to be filed with “false, misleading, and unsupported” claims.

Read the ruling here.

This is a developing story.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."