UPDATE, 3/25: In a surprising turn of events, Thursday's scheduling Order for the Supplements regarding signature verification was RESCINDED in a Saturday Minute Entry. (below)
Lake's attorneys inadvertently set a chain of events into motion Thursday. After the Arizona Supreme Court's Wednesday Order (below) left open the sanctions (at the appellate level), Lake's team asked for clarification on when to file the sanctions responses. Late Friday, the Supreme Court clarified, setting April 5 as the Response deadline (and April 12 for replies).
|AZ Supreme Court's 3/24 Order|
This prompted Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson to realize that the Supreme Court had not yet officially handed the case back to him. This "mandate" is designed to ensure that only one court at a time is dealing with the substantive issues. That realization has prompted him to rescind the quick scheduling he set up for addressing the signature verification issue (at the Motion to Dismiss stage).
Confused? You are not alone. And, it is very possible that the Supreme Court will quickly clarify - possibly allowing the signature verification issue to move forward in Superior Court while the Justices are handling the sanctions issue.
UPDATE, 3/23, 12:20pm: Superior Court Judge Peter Thompson quickly decided how to proceed on the Supreme Court's Order to revisit Kari Lake's Count challenging whether Maricopa County abided by signature verification policies on early (mail-in) ballots.
He is re-setting the clock to the defendants' Motions To Dismiss stage. In December, he dismissed the Count based on his understanding that it violated the legal concept of laches - that Lake was challenging the signature verification *policy* and could have done that *before* the election.
The Supreme Court determined yesterday that her challenge was to whether the policies were *followed* in the 2022 election.
Thompson is giving the parties until next Tuesday morning to file a SUPPLEMENT to the Motion to Dismiss filings. He specifically stated it should be a "memorandum of law" and not setting forth facts (because that would not be appropriate at the MTD stage).
If he then wants to hear oral arguments, that will take place on March 30, 9am.
Thompson could re-dismiss the Count III, or he could deny the Motions to Dismiss it, and set evidentiary proceedings.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE, 3/22, 5:25pm: "BREAKING: AZ Supreme Court Sends Kari Lake Case Back To Trial Court To Look At Whether Maricopa County Followed Signature Verification Policies In 2022; Denies Review Of Rest Of Appeal"
The Arizona Supreme Court sent one piece of Kari Lake's Election Contest appeal back to Superior Court this evening. They refused to look at the rest of her appeal. Lake lost her effort to overturn the Arizona Governor's race results after a 2-day trial, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that judge's decision.
The issue to be re-considered is whether Maricopa County followed signature verification policies in the 2022 election. Judge Peter Thompson had found that the doctrine of laches applied and refused to consider the issue.
The Supreme Court Order states: "Contrary to the ruling of the trial court and the Court of Appeals Opinion, this signature verification challenge is to the APPLICATION OF THE POLICIES, not to the policies themselves. Therefore, it was erroneous to dismiss this claim under the doctrine of laches." (emphasis added)
So, Lake's attorneys will now have to show - likely based on the evidence that they had and have gathered since - that Maricopa County accepted early ballots that they should not have AND that it constitutes misconduct. On this count, Lake had asked for setting aside election OR proportionally reducing each candidate's share of the mail-in votes. (Early vote favored Hobbs.) They cited case law for either option.
HOWEVER, the judge dismissed the count based on laches, believing they could have challenged the POLICY before the election.
Re: SANCTIONS: The Supreme Court STILL wants to consider sanctions against Lake for claiming 35k+ ballots were added at Runbeck. The Supreme Court today: "The record does not reflect that 35,563 unaccounted ballots were added to the total count."
A big X factor: The initial Election Contest is conducted under strict time constraints. Today's Supreme Court Order does NOT address whether all time constraints are now removed, and whether more discovery, etc can take place. Look for that to be one of the next battles.
The Supreme Court also gave Judge Thompson orders to "whether the claim that Maricopa County failed to comply with A.R.S. § 16-550(A) fails to state a claim pursuant to Ariz. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) for reasons other than laches, or, whether Petitioner can prove her claim as alleged pursuant to A.R.S. § 16-672 and establish that “votes [were] affected ‘in sufficient numbers to alter the outcome of the election’” based on a “competent mathematical basis to conclude that the outcome would plausibly have been different, not simply an untethered assertion of uncertainty.”
That will also make for some interesting battles between the parties.
So, based on that paragraph, it IS possible that there will NOT be a new evidentiary hearing. If the County convinces judge that the Count should be dismissed for a reason other than laches.
(However, I'm not sure what that successful argument would be.)
Lake asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reconsider those decisions, arguing that the lower courts' rulings mean that "election laws don't matter." The other side - Maricopa County, the Secretary of State's Office, and Katie Hobbs in her capacity of the successful gubernatorial candidate - told the Supreme Court that they should not exercise their discretion to hear the appeal because Lake had not shown any valid bases for overturning the dismissal. (Lake received permission to file a short Reply claiming that defendants had misrepresented the chain-of-custody issues.)
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