The Daily Agenda: Sanctions are just consequences
Mark Finchem gets another fundraising ploy ... Hobbs tries again on a child safety director nominee ... And more news about the non-governor.
Mark Finchem, the Republican former state lawmaker who lost his bid for secretary of state by running on a hardcore election-denying platform, was sanctioned by a judge yesterday.
Finchem’s race against Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes was not close: He lost by more than 120,000 votes. Still, he filed a lawsuit filled with election conspiracies instead of accepting the loss.
Sanctions are rarely granted against attorneys in election cases, and even more rarely against plaintiffs. They’re reserved for especially egregious lawsuits and sometimes utilized when a judge wants to send a message.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Julian found Finchem’s lawsuit worthy of sanctions because his allegations, even if they were true, wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the election. The lawsuit was “groundless and not brought in good faith,” she wrote. (12News has the full order posted online here.)
Finchem and his attorney, Daniel McCauley III, will be required to cover the legal fees of Fontes and then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who argued that the plaintiff should face sanctions for filing a bad-faith lawsuit. They won’t face further monetary sanctions beyond the legal fees, though.
Julian said McCauley had an obligation to further research and fact-check his client’s claims, which included that Hobbs should’ve recused herself, that she was biased against him because she flagged his Twitter account for misinformation in 2021 and that there were both illegal and missing votes that would have benefited him.
“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,” Julian wrote. “This too supports sanctions as it demonstrates a conscious decision to pursue the matter despite appreciating that the contest had no legal merit.”
This isn’t the first time a Finchem lawsuit ended in sanctions. The attorneys that represented him and failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake were sanctioned for a lawsuit that sought to ban tabulation machines, with the judge in that case saying the lawyers had “acted recklessly or in bad faith.”
And then there was the case brought by Finchem, Arizona Sen. Anthony Kern and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar against former Democratic lawmaker Charlene Fernandez. The judge in that case ordered the three plaintiffs to cover Fernandez’s legal fees because the case was “filed against a political opponent primarily for the purposes of harassment.”
Finchem’s legal losses, and the resulting bills, are stacking up. By now, you know what that means: He’ll be fundraising soon, complaining of corrupt judges, trying to get more of his followers’ dollars to pay off his frivolous legal quests. He said he plans to fight the ruling in a Twitter thread that’s basically a far-right MadLib.
That cycle is all too familiar at this point. But the use of sanctions in these kinds of cases, while rare in the past, is one way to hold the people continuing to espouse election lies to benefit themselves and undermine democracy accountable.
We’re stuck in an endless loop on elections these days. One way we can get out of it is if the people perpetuating the problem start to face consequences.
At the statewide level in Arizona, those candidates lost their races, serving them a major consequence for their actions. Now, they’re not just losing in court — they’re facing the financial reality associated with those losses.
Let’s hope it helps.
Godspeed: After asking her previous nominee to step down, Gov. Katie Hobbs appointed a new leader for the Department of Child Safety. David Lujan, the former president and CEO of Children’s Action Alliance and a former lawmaker, is a longtime fixture in state politics. Meanwhile, as the confirmation process in the Senate led by Jake Hoffman continues to be punishing for nominees, Hobbs’ administration is having those nominees meet with committee members informally before public hearings in hopes that it’ll start going better, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nick Phillips reports.
This all seems complicated: Plans to bring water back to Rio Verde Foothills hit a snag again last week after the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors said they preferred the area get water from EPCOR, a private water company, instead of the City of Scottsdale, the Republic’s Sasha Hupka reports. Under the board’s resolution, the city would partner with the private utility, with EPCOR giving water to Scottsdale to treat and deliver to the area.
Lawmakers do their jobs: These are the bills they came up with.
A proposal from Republican Rep. Rachel Jones would call for public votes to break up large school districts.
Republicans want a host of changes to education laws that are near-certain to be vetoed by Hobbs.
Speaking of vetoes, Hobbs vetoed a measure that would’ve gotten rid of the wonky “sunrise review” process that has the medical community divided.
The Tucson Sentinel’s Blake Morlock takes the GOP’s anti-drag bills to task.
Fear of retribution: A faculty committee at the University of Arizona that found safety problems at the university in the wake of a professor’s murder disbanded because the faculty members on the committee worried they would face “negative consequences” for their work, Arizona Public Media’s Paola Rodriguez reports. The university previously pushed back on the faculty committee’s findings of safety lapses, saying their report was “misleading.”
Convenient: Glendale City Council members are using a suite at the city-owned stadium, but it’s impossible to see who and just how often, Axios Phoenix’s Jessica Boehm said. The council and top staffers get ID badges that allow them to go into the suite whenever it’s in use by the city, plus get additional tickets for guests, but the city doesn’t track when those IDs are used.
The new Florida: Arizona is seeing its “largest-ever influx” of Cubans coming to the state, many of whom crossed into the U.S. via the southern border after fleeing turmoil in Cuba, the Republic’s Daniel Gonzalez reports. While historically Cubans have resettled in Florida, Phoenix’s relative affordability and access to jobs have made it more attractive, especially for those who have family and friends who came to Arizona in previous migration waves.
Nice society we have here: Three different Phoenix mobile home parks are evicting their residents in the coming weeks and months, but residents say the state aid available to help them isn’t enough money, is difficult to access or won’t apply to their situation, the Republic’s Juliette Rihl reports. Separately, Apache Junction residents say people are long-term camping on federal lands nearby, leaving them to clean up waste on their own, 12News’ Jade Cunningham reports. The Bureau of Land Management acknowledged it is “experiencing an increase in unhoused people attempting to reside on public lands.”
More disturbing body cam footage: Phoenix police officers knelt on a man’s back and restrained his legs during an arrest, after which he was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead, the Phoenix New Times’ Katya Schwenk reports. Bryan Funk’s death came just 10 days after he was released from prison following a 20-year second-degree murder sentence.
Hockey is on the ballot: The City of Tempe has a special election in mid-May with three ballot propositions related to the new Arizona Coyotes arena and surrounding entertainment district. KJZZ has a ballot guide for you.
Remember 2020?: In 2020, Fox called Arizona for Biden earlier than any other prognosticators, which threw Trump and his supporters into a frenzy against the network. The New York Times’ Peter Baker goes back in time to detail the call, what happened next and how it affected the conservative TV network.
It’s been long enough: Jose Patiño, a Dreamer whose group Aliento successfully passed a ballot measure granting Dreamers in-state tuition last year, writes in an op-ed for the Arizona Mirror that Congress needs to approve the Dream Act and take Dreamers out of immigration status limbo.
We wondered where all that money went: Arizona schools still collectively have nearly half of the COVID-19 federal relief dollars left to spend, and the state education department had nearly 80% if its COVID-19 bucks still unspent as of last June, state auditors found, the Chandler Arizonan’s Paul Maryniak and Ken Sain report.
Watch lawmakers try to make this illegal: The Tucson City Council could approve a climate plan this week, which could include the city creating its own public utility to use more renewable energy sources, the Arizona Luminaria’s Becky Pallack reports. The idea is one of many in the 156-page draft plan, which Pallack breaks down.
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