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Judge orders Arizona Republican losers Lake and Finchem to pay Maricopa County lawyers' fees

Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer.
Kari Lake declares victory Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022 in the Republican gubernatorial primary, insisting she can unite the GOP despite a bruising race with Karrin Taylor Robson.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- A federal judge has ordered the lawyers for two failed Arizona Republican candidates to pay the legal fees of attorneys for the Maricopa Counties.
In an extensive order, Judge John Tuchi said there were a series of factual and legal problems in the lawsuit filed earlier this year against the county seeking to require that ballots in this year's elections be counted by hand.
Tuchi had previously thrown out the bid by gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake and Mark Finchem who hoped to be elected secretary of state. He said their claims that machine counting can produce inaccurate results are little more than speculation on their part, backed only by "vague'' allegations about electronic voting systems generally.
But the judge, in the new order, said even those claims were based on false allegations and representations that should have kept their lawyers from filing the lawsuit in the first place. And Tuchi said financial penalties are appropriate in "frivolous'' cases like this, one in which he said Lake and Finchem, with their attorneys, "baselessly kicked up a cloud of dust.''
He said the state has taken steps to put in place procedures to ensure that elections are secure and reliable.
"It is to make clear that the court will not condone litigants ... furthering false narratives that baselessly undermine public trust at a time of increasing disinformation about, and distrust in, the democratic process,'' Tuchi wrote. And he said the sanctions "send a message to those who might file similarly baseless suits in the future.''
The judge said the lawsuit was factually wrong on several fronts, starting with the claim that Arizonans do not now vote by hand on paper ballots.
In fact, he noted, that is the current system with virtually every vote -- with some exceptions for those with disabilities -- already is done on paper. Tuchi said that creates a a verifiable paper trail and allows voters can review to determine that tabulation machines correctly recorded their choices.
"Allegations to the contrary are simply false,'' the judge wrote.
Tuchi also found fault with the claims that a hand count done in Maricopa County as part of a Senate "audit'' after the 2020 election proves that it is "superior'' and that isn't necessary to use machines.
Only thing is, the judge said, it took roughly 2,000 people more than two and a half months to count just the presidential and senate races in just that county.
More problematic, Tuchi said, is that Lake and Finchem "cherry picked'' the findings of that audit conducted by Cyber Ninjas.
"They conspicuously failed to mention that the Cyber Ninjas report states that 'there were no substantial differences between the hand count of the ballots provided and the official election canvass results,' '' the judge noted. In fact, Tuchi said even Cyber Ninjas called that an "important finding because the paper ballots are the best evidence of voter intent and there is no reliable evidence that the paper ballots were altered to any material degree.''
And then there's the judge's conclusion that Lake and Finchem never offered sufficient allegations, let along any real evidence, to demonstrate a likelihood that that the votes of Arizonans would be incorrectly counted in the 2022 midterm election due to manipulation.
What makes all that relevant here, the judge said, is that the attorneys failed to conduct the kind of inquiry that court rules require before filing a lawsuit and forcing those they sue to have to defend themselves in court.
"Any objectively reasonable investigation of this case would have led to publicly available and widely circulated information contradicting plaintiffs' allegations and undercutting their claims,'' Tuchi wrote.
"Thus, plaintiffs either failed to conduct the reasonable factual and legal inquiry required (under court rules), or they conducted such an inquiry and filed this lawsuit anyway,'' the judge continued. "Either way, no reasonable attorney, after conducting an objectively reasonable inquiry into the facts and law, would have found the complaint to be well-founded.''
And then there was the timing
Tuchi said the pair waited for seven weeks after filing the lawsuit to seek an injunction against the use of the tabulation machines this year despite clear legal precedent that courts cannot make such radical changes so close to an election.
There was no immediate response from Harvard Law School professor Alan Dershowitz who was the lead counsel in the case, nor from any of the lawyers who brought the lawsuit and will be forced to pay the fees once the judge reviews the reviews the request from the county and determines what is reasonable.
On Twitter: @azcapmedia