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Arizona Court of Appeals won't dismiss Stephen Richer's defamation case against Kari Lake

Stephen Richer Kari Lake
Stephen Richer (left) and Kari Lake.

Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit against Republican Kari Lake can move forward after the Arizona Court of Appeals declined to consider Lake’s request to dismiss the case. 

Richer filed the suit against Lake last summer. He said false statements Lake made about him and his role in the 2022 election led to violent threats and security concerns for his family. Richer asked for damages and wants the court to force Lake to retract the alleged defamatory statements.

Lake’s attorneys asked the court to dismiss the case, saying she should be protected by Arizona’s anti-SLAPP law, which is designed to protect citizens who criticize public officials. Lake was a candidate for governor in 2022, in a race she lost to Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jay Adelman ruled against Lake’s motion to dismiss the case in December, finding her attorneys failed to prove Richer brought the suit for an improper purpose.

Adelman found the law did not protect Lake from potentially facing legal repercussions for her statements alleging Richer interfered in the election and that her claims about him could be proven true or false in court.

“With this limitation in mind, the court is satisfied that the disputed statements — if indeed they are ‘provable’ as false and defamatory — would be undeserving of the protections associated with our First Amendment principles,” the judge wrote.

Lake, who is now running for the U.S. Senate, appealed that decision. But an Arizona Court of Appeals panel issued an order today declining to hear that appeal, which clears the way for the case to move to trial in Adelman’s court. 

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Wayne Schutsky is a broadcast field correspondent covering Arizona politics on KJZZ. He has over a decade of experience as a journalist reporting on local communities in Arizona and the state Capitol.