Friday, July 14, 2023

BREAKING, SANCTIONS SCOREBOARD UPDATE: Lake/Finchem Attorneys - Including Dershowitz - Sanctioned $122k For Pre-2022 Election Lawsuit

(UPDATE, 4:30pm: Alan Dershowitz's attorney has confirmed to Arizona's Law that they will appeal the decision to hold Dershowitz responsible for up to 10% of the sanctions. The underlying dismissal of the case is already pending at the 9th Circuit, but it is unclear whether any/all appeals of the sanctions will now be combined.)

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Kari Lake and Mark Finchem's attorneys have been sanctioned $122,200 for Maricopa County's attorneys fees in a pre-2022 election lawsuit in which they falsely stated that Arizona does not use paper ballots.

Nationally-known attorney Alan Dershowitz tried to remove himself from the sanctions, but U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi decided that he should be jointly/severally responsible for 10% of the sanctions.

Lake and Finchem were asking the court to forbid the use of "electronic voting machines" in the 2022 elections, requiring a hand count of all ballots. Judge Tuchi denied that. He declined to sanction them for filing the case that he found to be without merit, but did sanction them for the statements about paper ballots. Arizona has always used paper ballots.

The 26-page Order explains why he reduced Maricopa County's request down from $139,950, and why Dershowitz is liable for some - but not most - of those sanctions.

On the other hand, Mr. Dershowitz’s involvement in this case was indeed limited and he made an effort—albeit a misguided one—to communicate his limited role. He did so apparently after discussing the issue with other attorneys and scholars. He therefore claims, with some credibility, to have committed nothing more than an “honest mistake.” If he did wrong, he has apologized and avows he will not do so again. The Court also finds some credibility in his claim that he was not contemporaneously aware that others held him out as having a substantial role in the case; his public participation appears largely to have been engineered by others. Thus, the specific deterrence concerns in this case are diminished and need not be vindicated by the imposition of joint and several liability for the full fee award. Further, any monetary sanction imposed should not be so significant as to dissuade other legal experts from providing advice or assistance in litigation out of fear of sanctions, provided they abide by the requirements of the rules in signing filings and entering appearances in those matters.

The general deterrence concerns posed by Mr. Dershowitz’s conduct do require vindication, however. Attorneys must be reminded that their duties are not qualified in the way he suggests and that courts are entitled to rely on their signatures as certifications their filings are well-founded. The Court therefore will reduce Mr. Dershowitz’s share of responsibility to ten percent of the total fee award, but not eliminate it entirely.

 Kurt Olsen, Andrew Parker and their firms are jointly and severally responsible for the full amount.

No word yet on whether any of the attorneys will appeal the decision to the 9th Circuit.

(This is a developing story. Please check back for further information.)

"AZ Law" includes articles, commentaries and updates about opinions from the Arizona Supreme Court, U.S. Supreme Court, as well as trial and appellate courts, etc. AZ Law is founded by Phoenix attorney Paul Weich, and joins Arizona's Politics on the internet. 

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