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The Cochise County supervisors who delayed certification of the November midterms will have to pay more than $36,000 in legal fees, a Pima County judge has ruled.
Last year, Republican county supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd initially refused to certify the canvass of the countywide election results, jeopardizing the state certification process and risking the votes of thousands. To defend their refusal, the two cited bogus allegations that the county’s electronic tabulators weren’t properly certified. Only after then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs took them to court and a judge ordered them to complete their statutorily mandated duties did they finally certify the results.
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Afterward, both the secretary of state and the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans, which joined the lawsuit against Crosby and Judd, filed to request reimbursement of their attorneys fees and court costs. Late Wednesday, Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley approved part of that request. Secretary of State Adrian Fontes was awarded $13,143, despite petitioning for more than $17,000. The Alliance, which originally filed for more than $34,000 was awarded just over $23,000.
McGinley rejected arguments from Crosby and Judd that election lawsuits shouldn’t be subject to attorney fee repayments, and that taxpayers should bear the brunt of the cost, calling their arguments “unavailing.”
“Statutes specifically require the Court to impose reasonable attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party,” McGinley wrote.
But, as Cochise County is one of the defendants being sued, it remains unclear if it will be required to help pay.
McGinley noted that supervisor Ann English, a Democrat who was the sole dissenting vote against delaying the certification, should not be included.
“Such costs and fees are not assessed against Defendant English, as she did not oppose the relief sought by (the Arizona Secretary of State and the Arizona Alliance for Retired Americans),” he wrote.
Dora Vasquez, the executive director of the Alliance, celebrated the decision in an emailed statement, saying it stood as a warning against future malfeasance from state officials.
“We are gratified by the court’s decision to require the members of the Cochise County Board of Supervisors who tried to ignore the law to reimburse the Arizona Alliance for attorney’s fees and costs,” she said. “The decision should put elected officials on notice that anyone who ignores the law, interferes in elections or tries to suppress the vote will be held accountable.”
A spokesperson for the secretary of state’s office did not offer comment, noting that litigation is ongoing.
Judd, too, said she was unable to speak about a pending court case, but expressed frustration with the process.
“Again, another court case against us, another decision against us,” she said. “We’re just swimming here in this court of public opinion, that’s all I can say.”
In an email, Crosby reiterated his doubt in the validity of the vote counts from the county’s tabulation machines and implied he had, in fact, carried out his statutorily mandated responsibility.
“(Canvass) means check and inspect the results,” Crosby wrote. “I already had, and I believed the…labs certifying the voting machines were not accredited.”
State law requires county supervisors to canvass, or count, and report the election results in their counties to the secretary of state. A certification can only be delayed if supervisors believe portions of it were missing. Crosby did not attend the board meeting in which the results were finally certified.
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