A judge on Monday ordered sanctions against Republican Mark Finchem, the losing candidate in Arizona’s secretary of state race who challenged the election results in court.
In granting the sanctions, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Melissa Iyer Julian said that Finchem and his attorney, Daniel McCauley III, filed their lawsuit “without substantial justification.”
Finchem lost the election to Democrat Adrian Fontes by 120,208 votes.
Julian in December dismissed Finchem’s lawsuit, which requested a new election, alleged that then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs had engaged in misconduct and claimed that illegal votes were cast due to errors in the laboratory testing of voting machines and voting software issues.
After that dismissal, Fontes was joined by Hobbs in filing a motion for sanctions against Finchem and his lawyer.
Julian’s order on Monday asked Fontes and Hobbs, who is now governor, to submit an application for an award of attorney’s fees and statement of costs. The order did not impose additional penalty damages.
The order said that while Arizona courts recommend that sanctions only be awarded in “rare cases” to avoid discouraging legitimate lawsuits, Finchem’s election challenge was one of those rarities.
“None of Contestant Finchem’s allegations, even if true, would have changed the vote count enough to overcome the 120,000 votes he needed to affect the result of this election,” Julian wrote. “The Court finds that this lawsuit was groundless and not brought in good faith.”
Julian noted that Finchem withdrew his request to inspect ballots, “suggesting that he had no expectation that an inspection would yield a favorable outcome.” Doing so, the judge said, “demonstrates that Finchem challenged his election loss despite knowing that his claims regarding misconduct and procedural irregularities were insufficient under the law to sustain the contest.”
Finchem’s attorney told NBC News that they plan to appeal but did not provide additional comment.
Finchem was among several GOP candidates for statewide office in Arizona who repeatedly cast doubt over Joe Biden’s presidential victory or falsely claimed that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Prominent election deniers such as Arizona attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh and gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake lost their bids last year.
Lake, who also mounted an election challenge in court, has repeatedly claimed that she lost her race because of illegal votes and misconduct by election officials. An appeals court last month upheld a lower court ruling that said Lake had not provided evidence to support her claims.
Hobbs filed for sanctions against Lake after the GOP candidate’s lawsuit was dismissed in December, but a judge rejected Hobbs’ request.