A judge has ordered two Cochise County supervisors to pay more than $34,000 in legal fees in their losing bid to keep from certifying the 2022 general election results.
But whether Peggy Judd and Tom Crosby have to pay it out of their own pockets or can get county taxpayers to pick up the tab remains unclear under the new order from Pima County Superior Court Judge Casey McGinley.
Then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans went to court in November to force the Cochise County Board of Supervisors to perform its duties to certify the results after Republicans Judd and Crosby refused.
In a Dec. 1 order, McGinley agreed with them that the board had a “non-discretionary duty to canvass,’’ or certify, the vote. Two of the board’s three members then showed up at a meeting to comply.
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That didn’t end the matter, the judge said in his new order.
He cited a state law that requires courts to award fees and other expenses to anyone who successfully sues a public officer “to perform an act imposed by law as a duty to the officer,’’ a procedure known as seeking a writ of mandamus.
McGinley noted that the Secretary of State’s Office and the Arizona Alliance of Retired Americans, made up of retired trade union members, were the successful parties.
The judge rejected various arguments presented by Crosby and Judd, including the claim that county taxpayers may bear the burden of those fees.
Still, McGinley did not give attorneys for the winning side everything they sought.
Lawyers for AARA got $21,530 of the more than $33,000 they asked for, while lawyers for Adrian Fontes, who is now secretary of state, were awarded $12,525, about $4,000 less than requested.
There also was another approximately $2,100 in costs.
McGinley said Ann English, the lone Democrat on the three-member board, is not liable for any of the costs.
“She did not oppose the relief sought by plaintiffs, and in fact joined in the request that the court issue the writ of mandamus,’’ the judge wrote.
Crosby, who did not show up to certify the results after the judge’s December order, told Capitol Media Services Thursday that he did nothing wrong.
He said that all McGinley told him to do was “canvass’’ the vote, not to approve it.
“Canvass can be a verb or noun,’’ Crosby said. “If it’s a verb, the way he used it ... it means check and inspect the results. I already had.’’
Crosby said that inspection, and people who spoke to the board, led him to believe the election machines were not properly accredited.
“The allegation that I defied a judge’s order is true,’’ he said.
Judd said she would have no response.
Judd and Crosby balked at completing the canvass after the November election amid what they said were questions about whether the machines used to tabulate the ballots were properly certified. That refusal came despite repeated assurances by state Elections Director Kori Lorick that the machines met all legal standards.
Even if there were issues, McGinley said in his December order, that was not an excuse to ignore the clear language of the statutes.
“Whatever challenge or concern that the board or its members or the public may have about the certification or licensure of the tabulating equipment is not contemplated’’ by the law requiring certification of the results, the judge said.
Howard Fischer is a veteran journalist who has been reporting since 1970 and covering state politics and the Legislature since 1982. Follow him on Twitter at @azcapmedia or email firstname.lastname@example.org.