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Kari Lake’s lawyers ordered to pay sanctions for making ‘false factual statements’ to court about ‘injected’ ballots in 2022 governor’s race


FILE – Kari Lake speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference, CPAC 2023, March 4, 2023, at National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md. (AP Photo/Alex Brando, File)

Lawyers for failed Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake have been ordered to pay sanctions for making what the state supreme court called “false factual statements” during Lake’s ongoing litigation over unproven claims of interference in the state’s 2022 election.

Lake, a Republican, has been challenging — unsuccessfully — the results of her electoral loss to Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, by alleging that more than 35,000 ballots were “injected” into the race at a location run by a third-party contractor. She has lost at nearly every turn, save one issue relating to early voting in Maricopa County.

Now, Lake’s lawyers must pay $2,000 to the clerk of the Supreme Court, according to an order issued Thursday by the Grand Canyon State’s highest court.

“Candidates are free to timely challenge election procedures and results, and the public has a strong interest in ensuring the integrity of elections,” Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote in the ruling. “Sometimes campaigns and their attendant hyperbole spill over into legal challenges. But once a contest enters the judicial arena, rules of attorney ethics apply.”

Lake’s attorneys failed to follow those ethics rules, particularly by repeating the claim that it was “undisputed” that fake votes were added to Hobbs’ total tally.

“[S]he has repeatedly asserted that it is an ‘undisputed’ fact that 35,563 ballots were added or ‘injected’ at Runbeck, the third-party vendor,” the ruling says. “Not only is that allegation strongly disputed by the other parties, this Court concluded and expressly stated that the assertion was unsupported by the record, and nothing in Lake’s Motion for Leave to file a motion for reconsideration provides reason to revisit that issue. Thus, asserting that the alleged fact is ‘undisputed’ is false; yet Lake continues to make that assertion in her Motion for Leave.”

Brutinel acknowledged that while Lake may have reasonably argued that “an inference could be made that some ballots were added,” there is no actual evidence to support that some 35,000 ballots were.

“[M]ore to the point here, this was certainly disputed by the Respondents,” Brutinel wrote. “The representation that this was an ‘undisputed fact’ is therefore unequivocally false.”

Having noted that sanctions against attorneys may be appropriate if a their actions have affected “public confidence in our judicial system” and when the “truth-seeking function of our adjudicative process is unjustifiably hindered,” Brutinel said that Lake’s lawyers, in this case, met that bar.

“Because Lake’s attorney has made false factual statements to the Court, we conclude that the extraordinary remedy of a sanction […] is appropriate,” the judge wrote.

The $2,000 must be paid within 10 days.

Brutinel declined to order Lake’s lawyers to pay attorneys’ fees as sanctions. The judge also ordered the trial court to “forthwith conduct such proceedings as appropriate” to resolve the “unrelated” issue relating to Lake’s challenge of signature verification procedures in Maricopa County.

Hobbs’ office didn’t immediately respond to Law&Crime’s request for comment on the ruling, while Fontes’ response on Twitter was succinct.

“Good,” he wrote in a post on Thursday featuring a news report on the ruling.

Despite failing to prove her allegations, Lake has so far escaped having to pay significant sanctions, with at least one judge finding that her claims, while unsuccessful, were “not groundless.”

Read the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling here.

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