"Unfounded attacks": Kari Lake and her team may face sanctions over false election claims

Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs and Maricopa County officials demand sanctions for Lake's "frivolous" election lawsuit

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published December 27, 2022 1:54PM (EST)

Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake speaks to supporters during her election night event at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on November 08, 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake speaks to supporters during her election night event at The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on November 08, 2022 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Arizona's Democratic governor-elect Katie Hobbs and officials in the state's largest county asked a court to sanction defeated Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake over her "unfounded attacks" against election officials.

Maricopa County Judge Peter Thompson on Saturday rejected Lake's lawsuit that challenged the counting and certification of the November election in which Lake lost by roughly 17,000 votes. Lake had asked the court to throw out the election results and declare her the winner.

Out of 10 different claims about the election made by Lake's campaign, only two actually made it to trial after a judge dismissed the rest. But Lake failed to offer any evidence to back her claims of widespread, intentional misconduct on Election Day in a two-day trial aimed at challenging her defeat by Hobbs. 

Lake also did not successfully prove her claim that printer problems at a number Maricopa County polling places were intentional acts that likely affected the race's outcome, according to Abha Khanna, a lawyer representing Hobbs.

Judge Thompson ruled against Lake's suit, saying that the former news anchor had failed to provide "clear and convincing" evidence of intentional misconduct by election officials.

Hobbs has now joined a motion by Maricopa County officials asking for sanctions against Lake and her attorneys. The county's deputy attorney, Thomas Liddy, wrote that Lake filed a "groundless" lawsuit for a "frivolous pursuit," according to court documents.

"Enough really is enough," Maricopa County's filing read. "It is past time to end unfounded attacks on elections and unwarranted accusations against elections officials. This matter was brought without any legitimate justification, let alone a substantial one."

Maricopa County was the first for to file sanctions against Lake and her attorneys on Monday.

Lake and her legal team have repeatedly claimed that she actually won Arizona's election by 400,000 to 500,000 votes, but have not provided any evidence to support their claim. 

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The Trump-backed candidate's lawsuit also targeted Hobbs, claiming that "hundreds of thousands of illegal ballots" somehow introduced by Democrats had "infected the election" in Maricopa.

In a separate court filing, Hobbs also asked the Superior Court in Maricopa County to award her mor $600,000 to compensate for attorney fees and other expenses incurred in defending against Lake's lawsuit.

"Before a single vote was counted in the 2022 general election, Kari Lake publicly stated that she would accept the results of the gubernatorial election only if she were the winning candidate," read a statement from the county.

The statement also noted that Lake has not only failed to publicly acknowledge the election results, but had "filed a groundless, seventy-page election contest lawsuit against the Governor-Elect, the Secretary of State, and Maricopa County and several of its elected officials and employees (but no other county or its employees), thereby dragging them and this Court into this frivolous pursuit." 

After narrowly losing the governor's race to Hobbs in the November, Lake, who was one of the most prominent of this year's Trump-aligned Republican candidates, refused to concede and repeatedly made unfounded claims about election improprieties on Twitter, posting a video claiming that the "broken election system" in Arizona had disenfranchised voters. 

Lake's legal team responded to the demand for sanctions from Hobbs and Maricopa officials by arguing that the joint motion had "no basis in law or fact" because Lake had filed the suit "in good faith."

"[Lake] put forth evidence in good faith that showed substantial support for her claims — claims which also remain of great public concern," wrote attorney Bryan Blehm.

"Trust in the election process is not furthered by punishing those who bring legitimate claims as [Lake] did here," Blehm continued. "In fact, sanctioning [Lake] would have the opposite effect."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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Aggregate Arizona Elections Kari Lake Katie Hobbs Republicans