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Maricopa County Republicans censured the AZ Supreme Court because it rejected election lawsuits


Maricopa County Republicans censured the AZ Supreme Court because it rejected election lawsuits

May 08, 2024 | 6:13 pm ET
By Caitlin Sievers
Maricopa County Republicans censured the AZ Supreme Court because it rejected election lawsuits
A screenshot from a promotional video on the Maricopa County Republican Committee's website

The Maricopa County Republican Committee has censured all seven of Arizona’s Supreme court justices for “failure to perform their duties fairly and impartially” because they rejected bids by Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh to overturn the 2022 election and allowed a defamation case against Lake to continue.

The MCRC’s Executive Guidance Committee unanimously adopted the censure on May 7, condemning the actions of Arizona’s high court for “unjustly” dismissing the 2022 election challenge cases of Republicans Lake and Hamadeh, as well as for allowing Republican Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation suit against Lake to move forward. 

While Lake and Hamadeh both continue to attempt to fight their election losses in 2022, Lake is running for the U.S. Senate and Hamadeh is in the race for the U.S. House of Representatives in Arizona’s District 8. 

In the censure, the Maricopa County GOP alleges that Arizonans have “real and provable claims of election interference and manipulation and rely on the court system to fairly and honorably adjudicate these claims,” and that biases in the trial and supreme courts have resulted in “injustice for the citizens.”

In the many cases brought by Republican candidates and their allies seeking to overturn the 2020 and 2022 elections, no evidence of fraud or malfeasance has been presented. Every case has been rejected for lacking proof or seeking a remedy not allowed by state law.

The Maricopa County GOP does not have any real authority to censure the court beyond the declaration it issued. In reality, the court is held accountable by voters in the form of judicial retention during regular elections and by the 11-member Commission on Judicial Conduct, which investigates complaints against all judges in the state, from the Supreme Court to justices of the peace. 

There are six judges on the commission who are appointed by the Arizona Supreme Court, while the rest of the commission’s members are either attorneys appointed by the State Bar of Arizona or members of the public appointed by the governor.

While the MCRC accused the judges in the trial court of “clear bias” and condemned the justices on the Supreme Court for failing to correct the alleged injustice perpetrated by the lower courts, the trial judges who threw out the Lake and Hamadeh election cases were both appointed by former Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican. 

Additionally, all of the justices on the state Supreme Court were appointed by either Brewer or former Gov. Doug Ducey, also a Republican. 

The election challenge cases brought by Lake and Hamadeh after they lost the 2022 races for Arizona governor and attorney general, respectively, failed at every level of the state’s court system for lack of convincing evidence. That hasn’t stopped some of their followers from believing their claims that the election was somehow stolen from them. 

The public depends on the “court system to fairly and honorably adjudicate these claims,” the MCRC’s Executive Guidance Committee wrote in the censure. 

The Republicans went on to say that the Arizona Supreme Court has added to the alleged injustice imposed by the case dismissals by “imposing unreasonable and unwarranted sanctions” against attorneys for Lake and Hamadeh for making false claims and filing cases without “substantial justification.” 

The members of the executive committee also criticized the Supreme Court for failing “to correct the lower court decision to proceed with an unfounded and unprecedented defamation lawsuit brought by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer against U.S. Senate Candidate Kari Lake,” which the committee said was “a clear violation of the First Amendment and contradicts decades of legal and Constitutional precedents.” 

Lol. You can quote that.

– Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer

However, the committee failed to acknowledge in its censure that Lake has already admitted to the court that all of Richer’s claims are true, with only the discovery of evidence process and awarding of damages left in the court’s hands. 

While Lake tried to spin her concession in the case by saying she refused to participate in Richer’s “witch hunt,” the judge later clarified that when Lake defaulted in the case in March, she essentially admitted to the court that all of Richer’s claims were true

When the Arizona Mirror asked Richer for a comment on the MCRC’s censure, he responded via text.  

“Lol,” Richer wrote. “You can quote that.” 

Richer filed the defamation suit in June 2023, after months of attacks from Lake and her supporters, who claimed without evidence that he was somehow involved in rigging the November 2022 election against Lake and other Republicans running for statewide office.

Lake tried to get the suit dismissed, but after a December hearing during which one of Lake’s lawyers claimed that her comments about Richer were “rhetorical hyperbole” and not meant to be taken as facts, the trial judge allowed the case to move forward. 

Neither the chairman of the MCRC’s executive board, Craig Berland, nor the party’s vice chair, Shelby Busch, immediately responded to requests from the Mirror for further explanation of the censure and what they hoped it would accomplish. 

Busch is the head of the far-right election denier group We the People Az Alliance, and has given presentations rife with election conspiracy theories to the legislators on the state legislature’s elections committees. 

At the time of publication, the Arizona Supreme Court had not responded to a request for comment.