The Arizona GOP and its attorneys must repay taxpayers more than $18,000 for attorneys' fees incurred in defending one of the several post-election lawsuits. Superior Court Judge John Hannah issued the 10-page minute entry this morning explaining why he found that the case - which was challenging Maricopa County's legal decision to audit 2% of vote centers rather than 2% of precincts - was groundless.
AZGOP attorney Jack Wilenchik had warned the judge that granting the fees would show more bias and that he should not dream of treading into dangerous First Amendment territory by imposing fees.
Hannah's minute entry, handed down slightly more than two months after briefing was completed, blasts the AZ GOP's counsel, noting that the lawsuit was filed late and that it named the wrong defendants (among other issues). Even so, counsel came up with reasons to justify the errors that the judge did not believe. "When a litigant resorts to that kind of sophistry, instead of simply admitting it made a mistake, it invites inquiry into its motives."
Hannah goes on to suggest that Wilenchik was trying to gaslight him. "The plaintiff is not characterizing either its litigation posture or the Court’s inquiry honestly. The Court’s questions addressed the plaintiff’s own arguments. For the plaintiff to suggest otherwise is gaslighting. It evinces a lack of good faith."
Finally, he blasts the AZGOP for abusing it "privileged position" in the election process. "Arizona law gives political parties a privileged position in the electoral process on which our self-government depends. The public has a right to expect the Arizona Republican Party to conduct itself respectfully when it participates in that process. It has failed to do so in this case."
UPDATE, 3pm: Arizona Mirror is reporting that the AZGOP and its counsel is planning to appeal today's decision. (Commentary: As someone currently involved in such an appeal of an A.R.S. 12-349 fee award, the AZGOP has a tough row to hoe ahead of it and is risking additional sanctions.)
Read the scathing decision below.
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