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Judge charges Finchem, Kern and Gosar with $75,000 in legal fees for meritless lawsuit

Three Republican lawmakers have to pay the legal fees of a Democrat foe after filing what a judge called a meritless lawsuit against her.

Yuma County Superior Court Judge Levi Gunderson said it was obvious that Charlene Fernandez, then a Democratic state representative from Yuma, had an absolute constitutional right to send a letter to federal law enforcement officials asking them to investigate the activities of state Rep. Mark Finchem (R-Oro Valley), now former state Rep. Anthony Kern (R-Glendale) and Republican Congressman Paul Gosar in connection with the events around the Jan. 6 riot and breach of the U.S. Capitol.

More to the point, the judge said the lawsuit “was brought for an improper purpose, having been filed against a political opponent primarily for the purposes of harassment.”

In fact, Gunderson said, the initial legal papers the trio filed were less about legal grievances and more of a political screed.

“It very much appears that a significant portion of the contents of the original complaint and the first amended complaint were written for an audience other than the assigned trial judge,” he wrote.

So now the GOP politicians are jointly on the hook for $75,000 in legal fees and another $616 in costs.

Finchem said Tuesday he was still reviewing the order. There was no immediate response from the others.

The lawsuit filed last year said Fernandez knew or should have known that there was no evidence linking any of them to the Jan. 6 riot and breach of the U.S. Capitol.

Finchem and Kern both marched to the Capitol that day, though there is no evidence either went inside. Gosar was inside in his role as a member of the U.S. House and worked to block certification of the election for Biden. All three have been part of the “stop the steal” movement.

Fernandez, along with other Democratic lawmakers, sent a letter to the FBI and the Department of Justice asking that they investigate the three Republicans. In that letter, Fernandez and others said there was evidence they “actively encouraged the mob, both before and during the attack on the Capitol” and that they “encouraged, facilitated, participated and possibly helped plan this anti-democratic insurrection.”

Gunderson, in his new order, said it was clear that Fernandez and the others who signed the letter had done nothing to merit a lawsuit.

The lawsuit provided Finchem, Kern and Gosar with a new opportunity to resurrect their original allegations — all unproven — that there were “irregularities” in the election of Joe Biden and that social media sites like Twitter and Facebook quashed harmful stories about Biden’s son, Hunter, and his laptop that contained documents about his business dealings.

Finchem is now the Republican nominee for secretary of state.

Kern won the GOP primary for state Senate and has no Democratic opposition.

Gosar is seeking another two-year term in the U.S. House.

Fernandez stepped down from the legislature last November to take a job in the Biden administration.

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