Arizona GOP Loses Trump Election Court Case Vs. Reality
We have officially been in the insane lawsuit phase of the 2020 presidential election for ... a while now. But don't you worry, the fever dreams and crackpot legal theories just keep coming!
Arizona had a ridiculously successful hand count audit. Unlike other states, which saw some losses and gains, the Arizona audit gave absolutely identical results as the initial tally. To the vote.
But, of course, votes are meaningless to Republicans these days. And in Arizona Republican Party v. Fontes, the state GOP asked for MORE RECOUNTS!!!1! Why? BECAUSE THEY SAID SO, OKAY?!
Settle in, lean back, and grab the relaxing beverage or chemical of your choice. This is a fun one!
So ... listen. The Arizona GOP is truly batshit. I realize we live in 2020, where basically the entire Republican Party has gone off the deep end and the crazy bar has been set prettttty damn high, but even for Trumpland, these fuckers are nuts. This is best exemplified by Arizona Republican Party Chair Kelli Ward, who, when she's not worrying about chemtrails, spends her time looking for martyrs to die in the name of Donald Trump.
Predictably, the Arizona GOP has filed a whole bunch of crazy-ass lawsuits about the 2020 election. The Arizona Supreme Court has already unanimously rejected its attempt to overturn the results of the election. But Republicans aren't about to let silly things like "facts" get in their way!
Let's let Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Doug Wilenchik describe the latest case, in which the party sued to change the election manual ... after the election:
"In this lawsuit, the plaintiff Arizona Republican Party asked for a court order directing the defendant Maricopa County officials to redo the hand count audit using different batches of ballots. The plaintiff baldly asserted that this relief was necessary to maintain "confidence in the integrity of our elections," without alleging any facts to show that the machines might have miscounted the votes. The plaintiff could not explain why the suit had not been filed before the election, or what purpose another audit would serve."
Judge Wilenchik gives us a nice summary of all the reasons the case was dismissed and no relief was granted:
"The plaintiff's claim for mandamus relief failed because the duty of County election officials was to comply with the Election Procedures Manual, and they did so. The declaratory judgment claim failed because its extreme tardiness prejudiced both the defendant county officials and the public interest. Both those claims, and the mid-case request for an injunction, were prohibited post-election challenges to election procedures."
Oh, and also
The plaintiff could not show irreparable injury from the certification of the election results, or a favorable balance of hardships, because the plaintiff could not explain how, exactly, it would benefit from a do-over of the hand count audit.
And he makes it very clear that there are many, many grounds for dismissing this stupid case:
Setting aside for the moment the illogic of an attempt to disprove a theory for which no evidence exists, the plaintiff's defense of the case's timing failed on its own terms. The filing delay created a situation in which an order requiring another audit with different rules would only have amplified public distrust.
Mandamus Did Not Apply Because the Election Officials Followed the Law
The Request for Declaratory Relief Was Way Too Late
A Post-Election Judicial Inquiry into Election Procedures Was Not Justified
The Proposed Amendment Adding a Claim for Injunctive Relief Was Futile
"What exactly the Arizona Republican Party and its attorney knew or had reason to know about the status of hand count audit, at the time of filing the complaint, will be an issue on the application for attorneys' fees. The Republican Party appears to have had constructive knowledge, at least, of facts that contradicted the allegations in the complaint. The attorney (who also verified the complaint) said he "did not receive a copy" of the audit report until after the suit had been filed, [...] but what he knew about the audit when he filed the complaint is unclear."
Not only is this an amazing legal smackdown (that's the judicial way of saying "YOU ASSHOLES ARE FULL OF SHIT"), but it also signals Judge Wilenchik is sick of this hippopotamus dung and ready to punish these fuckers for filing this lawsuit in such bad faith.
It's a thing in most of Europe for a winning party to recover fees, but it's not a thing in the US except for in certain kinds of cases (like civil rights claims) and certain situations (like this). Arizona Revised Statute § 12-349(A)(1) & (2) requires that the opposing party pony up if a lawyer or party brings a case "without substantial justification" or "solely or primarily for delay or harassment."
The opinion also signals elsewhere that it is definitely considering sanctioning the motherfuckers:
"That application will require the Court to decide whether the Republican Party and its attorneys brought the case in bad faith to delay certification of the election or to cast false shadows on the election's legitimacy."
In a fee application, filed earlier this month, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs argues:
Here, [the Arizona Republican Party] and its counsel easily check off both boxes. They brought a meritless claim, prosecuted it in truly amateurish fashion by failing to seek necessary relief and half-heartedly seeking to enjoin Maricopa County's canvass, and thought so strongly of their claim that they didn't appeal when it was dismissed with prejudice. Their motives were transparent: delay final election results and sow doubt about the integrity of Arizona's elections system.laches? They're ba-ack!
That's simply not what litigation is for, and this abuse of the judicial system should not go without sanction.
This case is a textbook example of unreasonable delay that calls for the application of laches. The plaintiff could have gone forward with the case months ago. Instead it waited until after the election, after the statutory deadline for commencing the hand count audit, and (as it turned out) after the completion of the audit. The delay prejudiced both the defendants and the public. That defect, unlike the failure to sue the proper party, could not have been fixed.
After all of this election fuckery, law schools are going to have to update their textbooks.
But hey, as the court reminds us,
These longstanding rules have stood the test of time. They remain vital today, guarding the electoral process against the gamesmanship of those who might otherwise hedge against a loss at the polls by holding legal issues in reserve or use the law as a tool to thwart the will of the voters.
That's totally hypothetical, though, and definitely not exactly what Donald Trump and his team of crackpots have been doing this entire time.
Oh wait, jk:
Here the plaintiff failed to state a viable post-election claim. The plaintiff here demanded a hand count audit "in strict accordance" with the statute, Verified Complaint at 1, at a time when an alleged failure strictly to comply did not give rise to a cause of action. The plaintiff offered only suspicion of wrongdoing, in a situation that required it to plead specific, facially credible facts backed by "the most credible, positive, and unequivocal evidence" of fraud or malfeasance. The plaintiff here did not even allege facts that cast doubt on the reliability of the hand count audit, let alone the outcome of the election or the honesty of the officials who administered it. The law therefore required immediate dismissal of the case.
Is it weird that I just really want to be friends with Judge Wilenchik and his clerks now?
Here's the order!
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