Judge Keeps Hamadeh’s Challenge Alive In Disputed Attorney General Race

Abe Hamadeh received the endorsement of several law enforcement organizations, including the Arizona Police Association during his AZ AG run.

The judge in Mohave County assigned to hear Abe Hamadeh’s election challenge against Kris Mayes in the race for Arizona Attorney General (AGO) issued a ruling Tuesday that keeps the case alive, albeit in limbo for another month.

Judge Lee Jantzen has ordered oral arguments to be held May 16 in Hamadeh’s long pending motion for a new trial in his battle to show he -not Mayes- would have received the most votes Nov. 8, 2022, if valid ballots had not been rejected and if other ballots had been tabulated properly.

Jantzen could have ruled on the new trial motion without allowing the parties time for additional arguments. So that is seen as a victory for Hamadeh’s legal team led by Jennifer Wright, former head of the civil unit of the AGO’s election integrity unit.

“Judge Jantzen has moved one step closer to granting Abe’s motion for a new trial,” Wright told Arizona Daily Independent. “We look forward to arguing our motion because election results should accurately reflect the will of the voters. Faulty systems and procedures disenfranchised more than a thousand Arizona voters. Abe and the entire team intend to continue to fight to ensure those erroneously discarded votes are counted.”

Hamadeh’s election challenge filed one month after the election was initially handled on an expedited basis given the urgent nature of the matter. Jantzen ruled Mayes was the winner by a 580 vote margin following a Dec. 23 trial.

But Jantzen’s April 11 order makes clear the judge sees no reason for exigency in addressing Hamadeh’s current motion in which the Republican argues then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs withheld evidence from the court during the first trial.

Some of that evidence involved the fact Hobbs knew Pinal County discovered during a statutory recount that the county’s tabulation in the attorney general race was off by several hundred votes. The Pinal County errors were not revealed by Hobbs’ office until Dec. 29, cutting Mayes’ official lead from 511 to 280 votes.

Jantzen does not explain why he needs five weeks to prepare for oral arguments, although he noted there have been numerous filings from various parties. However, the judge’s order does resolve one outstanding question.

According to the order, Jantzen granted a motion by Arizona Senate President Warren Petersen and House Speaker Ben Toma to file an amici curiae (friends of the court) brief which urges the judge to afford all parties “a full and fair opportunity” to determine who received the highest number of votes in light of various election day and tabulation issues.

“The nearly unprecedented circumstances surrounding this proceeding underscore the judiciary’s indispensable role in ensuring that the certified winner of an election did, in fact, receive the highest number of lawful votes,” the amici curiae brief states.

The brief by Petersen and Toma was already submitted to the Clerk of the Court back on Jan. 25, meaning Jantzen’s order simply authorizes the clerk to add the brief as part of the official case file.

Jantzen surprised many court observers by declining to rule on how much money should be paid to several people who assisted as ballot inspectors in preparation of the Dec. 23 trial. Motions from Mohave and Navajo counties as well as from Mayes have been pending since January waiting on the judge to set the amount which should be paid to those persons.

However, Jantzen’s order states he will not consider the compensation matter until “the case is finally resolved,” which could be mid-summer by the time all appeals are exhausted.