In a long-awaited decision, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Iyer Julian decided that unsuccessful Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem and his attorney, Dan McCauley, WILL BE SANCTIONED for filing a “groundless” Election Contest. The amount of attorneys’ fees incurred by the now-Secretary of State Adrian Fontes and the Secretary of State’s Office will be submitted later this month.
Per Arizona statutory and case law, found that the Election Contest was “groundless” and was “filed in bad faith.” She has not yet decided how she will apportion the sanctions award between Finchem and his attorney – either one could be liable for the entire amount requested by the defendants, or they could be jointly (and, severally) responsible for it.
There has been confusion recently among Lake supporters about the case law surrounding what an Election Contest needs to prove. Judge Julian succinctly wrote: “Attorney McCauley also ignored the Arizona cases establishing that an election contest requires not only alleged acts of misconduct, but also evidence that the misconduct or irregularities complained of rendered the outcome of the election uncertain. McCauley did not endeavor to explain how his client’s claims satisfied that standard nor did he articulate a reasonable argument in favor of changing it.”
During the oral arguments before Judge Julian dismissed the case, attorney McCauley acknowledged that he was aware he might get sanctioned or even disbarred for bringing this case as he did. The defendants’ attorneys utilized that admission in their pleadings, and the judge noted it, as well.

“That McCauley had some awareness that this case lacked merit is apparent by his own comments during oral argument whereby he expressed being less at risk of being disbarred as a result of the filing given his impending retirement. This too supports sanctions as it demonstrates a conscious decision to pursue the matter despite appreciating that the contest had no legal merit.”

Finchem had appealed the decision to dismiss the Election Contest, and then had left it to get dismissed. The appeal received a second life, and his Opening Brief is due in one month. He will be able to include today’s sanctions ruling in that brief. If he is successful in overturning the dismissal, this ruling would likely be vacated, also.

Finchem now joins unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake in the to-be-sanctioned department, although she was only found responsible for some $30,000 for the defendants’ witness fees. Finchem and/or his attorneys are also facing sanctions in TWO other lawsuits related to elections. An unsuccessful defamation case he, Anthony Kern and Paul Gosar filed against then-lawmaker Charlene Fernandez has a $75,000 sanctions tag that is now on appeal. And, Finchem and Lake filed a pre-election federal case trying to force only hand-counting of the November election – a District Court ruling on the $141,000 in attorneys’ fees is pending. (A sanctions motion against unsuccessful Attorney General candidate Abe Hamadeh is currently pending in Superior Court.)

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