Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for Arizona governor this year, who lost the election and then lost a court case filed under state election challenge statutes that disputed her loss, is now responsible for tens of thousands in fees incurred by Katie Hobbs, the Democrat who defeated her.
The specific dollar amount is $33,040.50. Hobbs is also the outgoing Secretary of State. She and Maricopa County leadership argued for sanctions on Lake and her two attorneys who participated in this case, basing the bulk of their contentions on the allegedly groundless nature of Lake’s push. That description wasn’t only a matter of opinion, they argued. Rather, the county filing — the arguments in which Hobbs joined — questioned whether Lake’s lawyers made even the basic examination of their case prior to trial required under standards of attorney ethics. Every witness on the stand — including those the plaintiffs called! — denied direct and personal knowledge of intentional misconduct targeting the outcome of the election. If the attorneys were unaware that’s how they would answer, what else did they miss? If they knew, then why did they proceed?
The judge responded by concluding Lake wasn’t acting in bad faith, meaning without actually believing what she was saying. He noted Lake used expert testimony and statistical analysis trying to show an actionable lag in Republican participation in the election that could have affected how the race concluded — although the judge also noted there are “no cases which rule in or out a statistical analysis as a method for proving elements of an Election Challenge” under Arizona law. The judge ultimately found Lake’s statistical claims based in imprecise data, including assumptions about numbers of Republicans who would be voting, insufficient to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that specific numbers of votes were affected by alleged misconduct.
Totals sought by county leadership and Hobbs under proposed sanctions also included attorneys’ fees for two days of trial, and Hobbs also provided an estimate covering the entirety of the case, while the county indicated they were prepared to provide further numbers. The judge stuck with costs incurred for expert witnesses and the participation of an expert who joined a ballot inspection connected with this case and didn’t formally sanction Lake. Hobbs led Lake in the final results by over 17,000 votes, and there is still no commanding legal precedent for just overturning an election decided by that much. At trial, arguments that remained centered in large part on issues with printers at county polling locations on Election Day, some of which produced ballots not fully dark enough for the scanners. Voters were still able to participate, either through securely leaving their ballot for later tabulation or going to another polling place.
Image: Gage Skidmore/ Creative Commons