An Arizona judge ordered Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., Republican Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem, and former State Rep. Anthony Kern to pay more than $75,000 in legal fees and costs to a Democratic state lawmaker after their lawsuit against her failed.
In an order issued Monday, Arizona Superior Court Judge Pro Tem Levi Gunderson accused Gosar and the others of bringing a defamation claim against State Rep. Charlene Fernandez that “was groundless and not made in good faith.” The lawsuit was based on a letter signed by Fernandez and 41 other lawmakers calling for a federal investigation of whether the Republican officials were involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.
“The Court finds that Plaintiff’s lawsuit against Defendant was brought for an improper purpose, having been filed against a political opponent primarily for purposes of harassment,” Gunderson wrote.
The defamation lawsuit was dismissed in April, and in Monday’s order, the judge noted that there was really no question about the case’s outcome.
“Defendant’s conduct was clearly protected both by the right to free speech and the right to petition the government, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by the corresponding provisions of Arizona’s Constitution,” Gunderson wrote in the order, as previously reported by Law&Crime.
The letter Fernandez signed was dated January 12, just days after protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
The judge also implied that besides bringing the lawsuit for “purposes of harassment,” it was also perhaps a political stunt. In the order, Gunderson wrote that “significant portions” of the complaint and a subsequent amended complaint appeared to be “written for an audience other than the assigned trial court judge.” Gunderson referenced former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in a court filing arguing against awarding attorney fees.
The judge did note that a second amended complaint removed or reworded certain sections but kept “wholly irrelevant” allegations related to “open borders.”
Gosar, Finchem, and Kern now have to pay $75,616.20, as the court awarded $75,000 in attorney fees and $616.20 in costs. The judge left the plaintiffs’ lawyers off the hook, saying that “the Court declines to find that such fees/costs should be awarded against Plaintiffs’ attorneys.”