Kari Lake wants to forfeit ability to defend herself in ongoing defamation lawsuit. Here's why

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Faced with the prospect of turning over information that could be used against her at trial, former gubernatorial and current U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake is seeking to forfeit her ability to defend herself in court in an ongoing defamation case.

Lake and her attorneys are requesting default judgment, which means a jury could decide damages in the suit. The request means Lake could avoid most discovery in the case. That’s the formal process of exchanging information between attorneys about witnesses and evidence that could be presented before a jury at trial.

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

Kari Lake encourages citizens to cast their votes in the primary election on March 19, 2024.
Kari Lake encourages citizens to cast their votes in the primary election on March 19, 2024.

The news comes days after Richer's attorneys requested sanctions against Lake, claiming her attorneys were "doing everything possible to waste time and stall discovery."

His team also entered an application for default against Lake and her attorneys, alleging her lawyers were refusing to move the case forward.

Weeks ago, the Arizona Supreme Court lifted a temporary stay in the defamation lawsuit and rejected Lake's appeal challenging Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Adleman's December decision to allow the case to go forward.

Attorneys for Richer previously told The Republic that discovery would be "a reasonably lengthy process" that could take "several months." The case could have gone to trial during a contentious election year in which both Richer and Lake will be running for elected offices, or immediately after in 2025.

Lake's attorneys are now requesting the matter be resolved "before the forthcoming primary and general elections."

But a timeline for the case remains unclear. Ben Berwick, counsel at Protect Democracy and one of Richer's attorneys for the lawsuit, said a defendant agreeing to a default judgment in a lawsuit is "very unusual."

"It is extraordinary to see a defendant in civil litigation concede like this," he told The Arizona Republic.

An attorney for Lake did not immediately respond to The Republic's request for comment.

Richer to Lake: ‘You lied’

Richer and his attorneys were quick to claim victory on Tuesday.

“Complete and total surrender,” Richer said in a post on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter. “Kari: You lied... It was all B.S.”

Lake has long cast the lawsuit as a politically motivated attempt to silence her and other election integrity critics. She maintained that framing in a statement and video posted to X on Tuesday.

“The political elite will do anything to hold onto power,” Lake wrote. “They’ve resorted to filing a ludicrous defamation lawsuit to try to stop me and bleed me dry. Taking part in this lawfare just legitimizes it.”

Maricopa County election officials have for years endured false voting conspiracies and threats. Allies of former President Donald Trump tried to pressure county supervisors to question their ballot tallies after he lost the 2020 presidential race there, and county leaders remain a target for misinformation and threats — harassment that has pushed some to decline to seek reelection.

Lake has helped push many of those conspiracies. Richer’s suit came after she filed numerous lawsuits against him and several other Maricopa County election officials, including one that challenged the county over public records and another that aimed to overturn the results of the November 2022 election.

Lake lost the election to Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, by 17,117 votes. In May, a Maricopa County judge affirmed Hobbs' win and rejected Lake's claims that improper signature verification and misconduct affected the outcome.

Richer’s lawsuit was a high-profile test of whether false election statements against known public officials could be actionable in court. He and his attorneys said Lake’s request for default judgment means she is conceding those statements were intentional lies.

“These types of unwarranted attacks on our public servants need to stop,” said Daniel Maynard, a Phoenix-based attorney representing Richer. “Those who run for public office and lose need to learn to accept defeat with grace rather than falsely attacking those who administer our elections.”

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 requests default judgment in ongoing defamation lawsuit