Dismissal Requested Of Bizarre Lawsuit Filed Against Former Senator

Former Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend

Former Arizona Senator Kelly Townsend filed a motion Friday asking a federal judge to dismiss a bizarre lawsuit filed last year by a woman who made elaborate claims of election fraud against Maricopa County in 2020.

Maricopa County resident Staci Burk became acquainted with Townsend more than a decade ago through a local school board. They later took an interest in allegations the 2020 General Election results were tampered with.

Then in November 2022, Burk sued Townsend for damages stemming from various claims including false imprisonment, assault & battery, and negligent infliction of emotional harm, all allegedly engaged in by the then-senator “under the color of law as a government official.”

Townsend initially responded to the 49-page lawsuit with a tweet in which she expressed exasperation at the allegations.

This week Townsend hit back with a motion which asks U.S. District Judge Deborah Fine to permanently dismiss Burk’s lawsuit.

The motion to dismiss points to a wide range of problems with the lawsuit, including violations of court rules, missed deadlines, and an overall absence of any claim that a federal judge can provide relief for. It also reserves Townsend’s right to seek attorney’s fees and court costs from Burk to defend against the case.

Burk became infamous for her various claims about the 2020 General Election, including that she met with a man who had personal knowledge of thousands of Maricopa County ballots being flown into Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport from a foreign country during the election.

She later described having an armed security team at her home due to purported threats concerning Burk’s knowledge of details about election fraud.

But Burk’s lawsuit alleged she was “held hostage, gaslit, and terrorized” after the election, and that Townsend or various “associates” of the senator were to blame.

She also alleged Townsend engaged in “tyrannical behavior resulting in substantial harm” to Burk and unspecified family members.

In response, Townsend’s March 24 motion to dismiss argues that for all the pages of Burk’s lawsuit (which included 225 pages of exhibits), there is no claim put forth for which the federal judge can issue relief.

Burk is representing herself in the case, but all litigants are required to follow court rules. One of the most important of those is a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure which calls for the initial complaint filed by the plaintiff – in this case Burk – to simply provide a “short and plain statement of the claim” or claims for which the plaintiff is entitled to relief.

The rules also require each paragraph to be numbered for ease by the defendant, Townsend, in providing an admit or deny response to the complaint. But 22 of Burk’s 49 pages are not demarcated with paragraph numbers, and are instead written as “a running commentary” containing “mostly political invective,” Townsend argues.

The motion to dismiss also scrutinizes Burk’s claims that other unnamed people somehow acted “in concert” with Townsend to commit an alleged assault and battery. The motion notes those people are included as defendants nor does the lawsuit describe specific incidents.

“To the extent that the Complaint implies some sort of conspiracy, it fails to articulate with any specificity (much less in a plausible way) how Defendant actually participated in any cognizable alleged tort committed by others,” the motion states.

And because Burk asserts Townsend engaged in the alleged actions as a state senator and a government official, attorney Jack Wilenchik argues any state-law or tort claims –including for conspiracy– are barred because Burk failed to comply with a 180-day Notice of Claim requirement,

A notice of claim requires anyone intending to pursue a lawsuit against a local or state official or public body for violations of state law to first provide written notice of the claim and include a demand for settling the matter.

Burk will have a few weeks to file a response to the motion to dismiss. Fine has an option of issuing a ruling based solely on the written filings or she could set the matter for oral arguments.

If Fine opts to not dismiss the lawsuit at this early stage, Wilenchik has proposed an alternative that Burk’s complaint be stricken from the record for not complying with court rules. This will provide Burk a do-over period in which to try to file a valid complaint.