Kari Lake must prove Maricopa County Recorder 'sabotaged election'
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Kari Lake is now going to have to prove the charges she leveled against Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer are true.
In an extensive ruling Wednesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Adleman said it is clear that the claims made by the failed Republican candidate for governor that Richer had sabotaged the election were not, as her lawyers claim, "mere rhetorical hyperbole.''
"In point of fact, defendant Lake's statements regarding improper 19-inch ballots and/or the existence of 300,000 fraudulent ballots may be discerned by a factfinder as either true or false when considered in the light of any available evidence,'' the judge wrote. "These statement constitute assertions of fact that are actionable under prevailing Arizona law.''
And there's something else.
Adleman said that Richer's lawyers have enough allegations in his lawsuit against her, her campaign and the Save Arizona Fund which she has used to raise cash, to provide a basis to show that she acted with "actual malice.''
That is critical.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that people who are considered public figures, like Richer, cannot sue for defamation unless they can prove by clear and convincing evidence that the statements were made with actual malice. In general, that means the person making the statement knew it to be false or that the statement was made with a reckless disregard for the truth.
Wednesday's ruling clears the way for a trial. And given that it was Lake who made the claims that Richer says were not just false but that she knew were false, she now has to prove they are true -- something she has been unable to prove in any of her still-ongoing legal efforts to get any court to overturn her 2022 loss to Democrat Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes.
There was no immediate response from Lake or her attorneys.
Richer, in a prepared statement, said he was pleased he will get to present his case to a jury.
"My family and I have faced endless and vile threats, including calls for our execution, and I've lost important personal relationships and seen my reputation severely damaged by defendants,'' he said.
"Working as a public servant should not lead to death threats, harassment or defamation,'' Richer continued. "No one is above the rule of law in this country.''