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Fontes, Mayes say Hamadeh should fork over more than $50k for his latest 2022 election challenge


Fontes, Mayes say Hamadeh should fork over more than $50k for his latest 2022 election challenge

Apr 22, 2024 | 8:00 pm ET
By Gloria Rebecca Gomez
Fontes, Mayes say Hamadeh should fork over more than $50k for his latest 2022 election challenge
Abe Hamadeh at a 2022 Republican rally in Prescott on Nov. 7, 2022. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Republican Abraham Hamadeh should be fined more than $50,000 for filing a groundless lawsuit to overturn his 2022 defeat, say Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, who were forced to go to court to defend the election results. 

In December, Hamadeh filed a writ of quo warranto, hoping to convince a court that Mayes should be removed from office and that he should be installed as the state’s top attorney instead. The writ was the latest in a string of failed challenges pushed by Hamadeh since he lost the attorney general’s race by just 280 votes nearly two years ago. 

Maricopa Superior Court Judge Susanna Pineda was unimpressed by the legal maneuver, which largely rehashed previously made arguments, and threw it out of court earlier this month. She levied sanctions against both Hamadeh and his attorney, Ryan Heath, and greenlit attorneys fees requests from defendants in the case. 

Fontes quickly moved to request the repayment of $36,820 his office spent to mount a defense against the lawsuit, and on Monday Mayes added her own request seeking to recoup more than $16,600 in attorneys fees. Because Pineda authorized sanctions against Heath and Hamadeh, the two are also subject to a fine of up to $5,000, which, under Arizona law, is the punishment for filing a lawsuit without “substantial justification.” 

In her ruling dismissing Hamadeh’s petition, Pineda also rejected a lawsuit filed two months earlier in September of 2023 by Cochise County Supervisor Tom Crosby and Arizona voter David Mast. Pineda combined the two cases because Heath was the attorney in both, and because the two challenges similarly argued against signature verification processes in Maricopa County, claiming that allegedly unlawful practices should invalidate the results. 

Signature verification in the state’s most populous county has come under repeated fire from GOP politicians, who argue that election workers should only be allowed to compare the signature on a person’s mail-in ballot to the one submitted when they registered to vote. But that argument has consistently failed to sway judges, with Hamadeh’s own claims on that front being thrown out of court multiple times because case law has determined that challenges to how an election is conducted must be launched before the election itself. 

While Pineda criticized Crosby and Mast for filing a challenge without proving they have a right to contest the results of the 2022 election, she did not immediately punish the duo with sanctions, instead directing Fontes and Mayes to make their case for doing so first. In a joint filing on Monday, Fontes and Mayes did just that, urging Pineda to apply sanctions against Crosby, Mast, and Heath and requesting $17,622.50 in attorneys fees. 

Attorney Karen Hartman-Tellez said Crosby, Mast and Heath had no excuse for not knowing that their challenge would be rejected. Heath must have been aware that other challenges based on the same premise from Hamadeh were rejected, and Crosby and Mast themselves — again represented by Heath — previously unsuccessfully attempted to challenge signature verification processes during failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s lawsuit. Beyond that, the trio should have recognized that filing a lawsuit almost a year after the fact would be tossed out of court. 

“Plaintiffs and their counsel were well aware that the proper way to challenge the results of an election is an election contest under (Arizona law) not a constitutional claim filed nearly a year after the election,” Hartman-Tellez wrote. 

The timelines around election contests are strictly governed by state law. Challenges must be filed within five days of the statewide canvass and the trial must begin no later than 15 days afterwards, ensuring that resolutions are reached with as little delay as possible.

Hartman-Tellez noted that, despite previous court rulings dismissing challenges against signature verification processes, Heath doubled down and spearheaded two lawsuits embodying nearly the same argument two months apart. The costs of fending off the two lawsuits should be repaid, she said, and sanctions should be awarded. 

“Because (Heath) filed two different cases, which were served on (Mayes and Fontes) approximately two months apart, (Mayes and Fontes) needed to fully brief two separate motions to dismiss and address multiple novel, though legally unsound, arguments,” she wrote. 

In an emailed statement, Heath, who is the CEO of an “anti-woke” law firm, told the Mirror that he’s looking forward to appealing the dismissal of both of his cases. Hamadeh’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.