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Kari Lake's lawyers sanctioned over false election claims

Arizona’s chief justice directed Lake’s lawyers to pay $2,000 for making “false factual statements to the Court.”
Kari Lake, Republican candidate for Arizona governor, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Aug. 5, 2022.
Kari Lake at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas in August.LM Otero / AP file

The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday sanctioned attorneys for Kari Lake, the 2022 Republican candidate for governor, ordering them to pay thousands of dollars for repeating "unequivocally false" election claims in court.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel fined Lake's attorneys $2,000 for making "false factual statements to the Court."

Gov. Katie Hobbs and Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, both Democrats, had sought the sanctions after Lake repeatedly claimed that thousands of "unaccounted for ballots" had been added to Arizona's ballot count in her loss to Hobbs by roughly 17,000 votes.

Even after the Supreme Court "concluded and expressly stated that the assertion was unsupported," Brutinel wrote, Lake continued to repeat as "undisputed" the claim that 35,563 unaccounted ballots were added to the total count at a third-party processing facility.

“Sometimes campaigns and their attendant hyperbole spill over into legal challenges. But once a contest enters the judicial arena, rules of attorney ethics apply," Brutinel wrote. "Although we must ensure that legal sanctions are never wielded against candidates or their attorneys for asserting their legal rights in good faith, we also must diligently enforce the rules of ethics on which public confidence in our judicial system depends and where the truth-seeking function of our adjudicative process is unjustifiably hindered."

Brutinel denied Hobbs and Fontes’ request for attorney’s fees as sanctions.

Kurt Olsen, a lawyer for Lake, said in a statement, “We respectfully disagree with the Court’s holding but look forward to presenting our case at trial on the claim of illegal signatures and any other claim the trial court may consider.”

Lake, who built a national profile that leans heavily into promoting former President Donald Trump’s election lies, refused to concede her race, instead launching a legal battle and filing a 70-page lawsuit in December seeking a court order that declared her the winner.

While the state's high court in March declined to hear most of Lake’s appeal, it sent one of her claims back to a trial court for consideration. Her challenge regarding the verification of signatures on Maricopa County's early ballots remains unresolved.

Paul Smith-Leonard, a spokesman for the secretary of state, said in a statement that Fontes was “pleased with the Supreme Court’s Order and the accountability it requires of those who seek judicial redress.”

A spokesperson for Hobbs’ office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday evening.

The sanction is not the first time lawyers have been punished in Arizona over false election claims.

Late last year, a federal judge sanctioned lawyers for Lake and fellow Republican Mark Finchem, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for secretary of state, over an election-related lawsuit.