Arizona Supreme Court Rejects Kari Lake’s Appeal in Stephen Richer’s Defamation Lawsuit 

Case will now proceed to discovery in Superior Court

Phoenix, Arizona – On March 5, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected Kari Lake’s appeal in the defamation lawsuit filed against her by Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer. By rejecting Lake’s appeal, the Supreme Court left in place the trial court’s ruling from December that denied Lake’s motion to dismiss Richer’s case. As a result, today’s important decision means that Richer’s suit will now proceed to the discovery phase of litigation and brings the case one step closer to a trial.  

“Today’s decision is a crucial step forward in holding Kari Lake accountable for the real harm her lies about her election loss have caused me and my family,” said Stephen Richer. “With this decision, Defendants’ days of dodging consequences for their dangerous lies are finally coming to a close.” 

Richer filed this defamation suit in his personal capacity in June 2023 against Lake, Lake’s gubernatorial campaign, and her super PAC. On December 19, 2023, following briefing and oral argument, the Maricopa County Superior Court issued a decision denying all of Defendants’ arguments seeking to dismiss the lawsuit. Defendants first appealed that decision to the Arizona Court of Appeals, which declined to consider her appeal. Lake then appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court, which likewise declined to overturn the superior court’s decision. As a consequence, Defendants have effectively exhausted their legal options to avoid discovery and prevent the case from proceeding toward trial. 

“This is a resounding victory for the truth and for the rule of law,” said Jared Davidson, counsel at Protect Democracy. “The First Amendment does not — and has never — provided politicians like Kari Lake with a free pass to knowingly or recklessly spread false information about someone. Today’s decision simply re-affirms what has always been the law: if you engage in defamation, you will face consequences.”

“Kari Lake’s repeated fabrications about Mr. Richer were demonstrably false and designed to inflict real harm and mislead the public,” said Brandon Arnold, a Partner at Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP. “We look forward to the next steps and holding Defendants accountable for defaming Mr. Richer.”

“The case moving toward trial is a major win,” said Larry Schwartztol, a professor at Harvard Law School, where he directs the Democracy and Rule of Law Clinic. “We look forward to showing that Mr. Richer was defamed by the Defendants and that these harmful actions violate the law.”

“There is not now, and there never has been a constitutional right to defame anyone including a public servant,” said Dan Maynard, a partner at Maynard Cronin Erickson & Curran PLC. “We look forward to proceeding to the discovery phase of the process.”

The specific date for the trial has yet to be set, but with the Supreme Court’s decision, Richer’s pursuit of justice for the Defendants’ deliberate and damaging defamation can finally move forward.

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