PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona judge has sanctioned former Republican secretary of state candidate Mark Finchem and his attorney over a lawsuit challenging his loss in last year’s election, saying the suit “was groundless and not brought in good faith.”
Finchem’s suit raised unsupported claims that his loss was marred by misconduct and demanded the results be set aside and the election redone. He’s refused to concede to Democrat Adrian Fontes, who took office in January.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Julian tossed out Finchem’s lawsuit in December. Fontes and then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is now governor, asked her to sanction Finchem for requiring them to incur the hassle and expense of defending against a baseless lawsuit.
Julian said in a ruling dated March 1 that Finchem must pay the reasonable lawyer fees incurred by the Fontes campaign and by the secretary of state’s office, which Fontes now leads. Those costs have not been determined.
“Mr. Finchem and bad actors like him cannot be permitted to avoid accountability,” Fontes said in a statement. “He continues to grift off of his broken political agenda using fraudulent schemes that take advantage of Arizonans.”
Finchem did not respond to a request for comment. His lawyer, Daniel McCauley, declined to comment.
Even if everything Finchem alleged in his lawsuit was true, Julian wrote, it would not have changed the results of the election, which Finchem lost by 120,000 votes.
Julian, who was appointed by former Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, also pointed to McCauley’s comments during a hearing that more experienced election lawyers had refused to take the case but he had little to lose because he was preparing to retire. That, she wrote, is an indication he knew the lawsuit had no merit.
Finchem was a prolific proponent of the lie that former President Donald Trump lost his 2020 reelection because of widespread fraud, which has been repeatedly debunked by courts, election experts and Trump’s own attorney general.
While most of the election deniers who lose their races last year have conceded, three prominent Republicans in Arizona have not. Finchem, candidate for governor Kari Lake and attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh have all filed unsuccessful lawsuits challenging their losses and have refused to concede, continuing to point to mishaps that courts have repeatedly said do not throw the results in doubt.
Lake last week appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court after a state appeals court said her lawsuit challenging the election was based on “sheer speculation.”