A judge has ruled that the Arizona Republican Party and its lawyers must pay $18,000 in legal fees to the Arizona Secretary of State over a failed lawsuit it previously filed seeking a hand count audit of ballots in Maricopa County, the most populous county in the state, due to concerns over the “integrity” and “legitimacy” of the results of the November 2020 election.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John R. Hannah last week ruled (pdf) that the legal fees requested by Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who intervened in the case, were “reasonable and appropriate” because the lawsuit filed by the Arizona GOP was legally “groundless” and was filed in “bad faith.”
Hannah explained in his 10-page ruling that the suit was groundless because “because the relief sought was not legally available from the parties that were sued at the time the suit was filed.” He also said that plaintiffs failed to address procedural defects and other issues in their lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the judge said he did not think the state GOP had brought the case in good faith because it was brought “primarily for an improper purpose.”
“The plaintiff has retreated from the position that a fair election requires a hand count audit based on a sample of precincts. The plaintiff now professes to have wanted nothing more than a hand count audit conducted ‘completely by the book and in strict accordance with the law, even to the point of conducting another quick sampling in strict legal compliance as was requested in this suit.’
The plaintiff goes on to say that “[p]ublic mistrust following this election motivated this lawsuit,” Hannah wrote.
“The plaintiff is effectively admitting that the suit was brought primarily for an improper purpose. It is conceding that the method of sampling ballots for the hand count audit is a minor procedural requirement, not a necessary step toward a fair election. It is saying that it filed this lawsuit for political reasons. ‘Public mistrust’ is a political issue, not a legal or factual basis for litigation,” he added.
The case (pdf) stems from a dispute between the Arizona GOP and state officials.
Under the Secretary of State’s manual, election officials must perform a limited precinct hand count audit after every general election. For the 2020 election, Maricopa County set up “vote centers” across the county rather than assign voters to “polling places” in their precincts, as had been the traditional practice in prior elections. The difference in sampling vote centers compared to precincts is that there are significantly fewer vote centers.
The state’s Republicans, hence, asked the court to order the sampling of precincts rather than vote centers for the hand count audit.
Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs argued at the time that the challenge was a “delay tactic” to undermine the certification of the election results.
Upon rejecting the lawsuit, he indicated that he would ask the Arizona GOP to pay the legal fees under a state law that allows for such when a frivolous lawsuit is brought by a party. Hobbs requested $18,237.59 in attorneys’ fees.
Jack Wilenchik, one of the attorneys representing the Arizona GOP, issued a statement saying the decision would be appealed and that the judge’s conclusion that public mistrust in an election is an improper reason for a political party to bring to court is “sorely disrespectful to the views of the many Americans whom I am proud to represent.”
Wilenchik said the order “encourages public distrust in the government for being openly hostile to them.”
The Arizona GOP didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment by The Epoch Times.
Janita Kan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.