Judge skewers GOP lawsuit to throw out AZ election, citing total lack of evidence

By: - December 9, 2020 6:42 pm

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey bump elbows before certifying the state’s election canvass on Nov. 30, 2010. Photo by Ross Franklin | The Associated Press/pool photo

A federal judge has dismissed a wide-ranging lawsuit attempting to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s win in Arizona, bringing an end to the seventh and final lawsuit challenging the results of the state’s presidential election.

U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa issued a blistering ruling on Wednesday. The plaintiffs — 11 electors pledged to President Donald Trump, along with three county-level GOP chairs — lacked standing to bring the suit, she wrote. And even if they had grounds to sue, they sought a remedy that she was unable to provide, waited too long to bring their claims to court, and made arguments that state courts have already heard — and rejected.

Humetewa wrote that the plaintiffs were “sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence” to back up their implausible claims of massive election fraud, which included allegations of foreign espionage along with more mundane accusations of illegally cast ballots. 

“Plaintiffs allege that Arizona’s Secretary of State and Governor conspired with various domestic and international actors to manipulate Arizona’s 2020 General Election results allowing Joseph Biden to defeat Donald Trump in the presidential race. The allegations they put forth to support their claims of fraud fail in their particularity and plausibility,” the judge wrote. 

Humetewa, who was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama after serving as U.S. attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush, was thoroughly unimpressed with the plaintiffs’ evidence. The more than 300 pages they included with their lawsuit were “only impressive for their volume.” 

She noted that some alleged witnesses were completely anonymous, such as an unnamed person who provided a statement claiming knowledge of the way former Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez — who died in 2013 — used voting machines to rig elections with software similar to that in use in the United States. Another statement included by the plaintiffs was attributed to an alleged former military intelligence expert only identified as Spider.

The plaintiffs didn’t provide any credentials for another witness who claimed a “data analysis” showed that Biden’s vote totals in Arizona were questionable, and the judge found the data itself to be unreliable. Others made claims about the possibility of hacked voting machines or rigged ballots that were purely speculative and lacked any factual support, Humetewa said. In other cases, witnesses alleged mistakes or errors that didn’t rise to the level of fraud.

Humetewa said the plaintiffs fell far short of showing that she shouldn’t dismiss a case seeking to overturn the votes of 3.4 million Arizonans who cast ballots.

“By any measure, the relief Plaintiffs seek is extraordinary. If granted, millions of Arizonans who exercised their individual right to vote in the 2020 General Election would be utterly disenfranchised,” Humetewa said.

In addition to her concerns about the dearth of credible evidence, Humetewa dismissed the case for a number of other reasons.

The judge said she lacked the ability to “de-certify” the election, as the plaintiffs asked, and wrote that they should have brought their claims in state court, where there is a specific law reserved for challenging election results. She noted that Arizona Republican Party Chairwoman Kelli Ward, one of the 11 Trump electors, lost her attempt to nullify the election results in a lawsuit filed under that statute.

Additionally, Humetewa said the plaintiffs waited too long to bring many of the claims in their lawsuit. While attorney Julia Haller, who represented the plaintiffs, argued that they were not yet aware on election night of the kinds of fraud that were occurring, the judge said they were well aware of many of their claims long before Dec. 2, when they filed the case. The lawsuit included claims about Dominion Voting Systems, which provides Maricopa County’s ballot tabulation machines and has been the subject of many groundless conspiracy theories, that dated back to 2018, the judge said.

Humetewa also ruled that the plaintiffs don’t have standing to bring some of their charges in the first place. In one case, she noted that presidential electors “are not candidates for office as the term is generally understood” because, although they are elected and their names are on the ballot, they perform only a limited ministerial function, and therefore lack the standing that other types of candidates would have.

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who, along with Gov. Doug Ducey, was one of the two named defendants in the lawsuit, hailed the dismissal of the seventh and final challenge to Arizona’s election results as a “turning point in our democratic process.”

“No credible evidence has been presented. Courts have tossed out every claim. There will be another chance at the ballot in four years — that’s how it works. Leaders must step up and say this is unacceptable and un-American. Enough is enough,” Hobbs said in a press statement.

But Hobbs also expressed concern about what she said was the damage done by such lawsuits.

“My sincerest concern about each of these legal actions was never that they would invalidate the results, but were instead intended to create discord and dissolution, further exploiting divisions in our communities,” she said.

The lawsuit was brought by both local attorneys and out-of-state attorney Sidney Powell — a one-time attorney for the Trump campaign — who has spread myriad baseless allegations since the election claiming that Trump was cheated out of the election through fraud. Powell had vowed that she would “release the kraken” by providing proof of her many claims, leading both supporters and detractors to use the term for the lawsuits she brought in numerous states, including Arizona.

However, Powell’s “kraken” lawsuits have fallen short in every state where she’s brought them, including Arizona. Powell did not personally participate in a Tuesday hearing in Humetewa’s courtroom, though Haller, an attorney from her Dallas-based law firm, argued on behalf of the plaintiffs that the case shouldn’t be dismissed.

Alexander Kolodin, an Arizona attorney who represented the plaintiffs, said the legal team is reviewing its options for appeal, including whether to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. He said he would have more information by Thursday.

“I’m very pleased with the professionalism and fairness with which the judge handled the case,” Kolodin said, though “we disagree with the decision.”

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”