Kari Lake challenges judge's decision to allow defamation lawsuit to proceed

Former gubernatorial and current U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake filed a special action appeal on Friday challenging a Maricopa County judge's decision last month to allow a defamation lawsuit against her to go forward.

Appeals are generally filed after trial or a judge's final order, but Lake's petition asks the Arizona Court of Appeals to rule more immediately on whether her motions to dismiss the defamation lawsuit were improperly denied.

That could impact whether the case continues to discovery, the formal process of exchanging information between attorneys about witnesses and evidence that could be presented before a jury at trial. Lake's petition says the appellate court should consider the issue because the lawsuit is "a matter of significant statewide importance" and "significant judicial and litigant resources will be extended" if the case proceeds.

"Defendants expect the trial to run at least 10-14 days, with tens of thousands of pages of exhibits, a half-dozen or more expert witnesses, which will be preceded by dozens of discovery disputes," the appeal states.

Kari Lake, former Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, speaks at Turning Point USA's 2023 America Fest in the Phoenix Convention Center on Dec. 17, 2023, in Phoenix.
Kari Lake, former Republican candidate for governor of Arizona, speaks at Turning Point USA's 2023 America Fest in the Phoenix Convention Center on Dec. 17, 2023, in Phoenix.

Now, the appellate court must determine whether it will accept Lake's appeal before the conclusion of the case in Maricopa County Superior Court.

The defamation lawsuit, filed in June by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, accuses Lake and her affiliates of spreading false information about Richer following the November 2022 election. He alleges that Lake knew, or should have known, the statements were false. Lake and Richer are both Republicans.

But Lake says Richer, who is running for reelection, is seeking to silence her and other election integrity critics. She has repeatedly condemned his defamation suit against her.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer answers a question at Maricopa County Superior Court during a voting records trial brought by Kari Lake, former Arizona Republican candidate for governor, on Sept. 21, 2023, in Phoenix. The trial is a public records lawsuit that asks to review all early ballot envelopes with voter signatures in Maricopa County, where election officials denied Lake's request for those documents.

Her attorneys previously filed two motions to dismiss the defamation case, but Judge Jay Adleman rejected both.

The appeal disputes Adleman's conclusion that Lake's statements about Richer are "provably false" and may not be subject to First Amendment protections. Adleman cited that reasoning while rejecting Lake's first motion to dismiss.

Lake's appeal also argues that Adleman erred on her second motion when he determined that Lake failed to provide enough evidence to get the case dismissed outright under a recently revised state law intending to deter lawsuits that seek to censor or intimidate critics.

Richer and Tim LaSota, an attorney for Lake, did not immediately return The Arizona Republic's request for comment.

Richer has until Jan. 16 to file a response to Lake's petition, according to court documents.

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Sasha Hupka covers county government and election administration for The Arizona Republic. Do you have a tip to share on elections or voting? Reach her at sasha.hupka@arizonarepublic.com. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter: @SashaHupka. Follow her on Instagram or Threads: @sashahupkasnaps.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Kari Lake challenges judge's decision in defamation lawsuit