Our partisan hack attorney general Mark Brnovich aka “Nunchucks” (or is it numbnuts?) sued Secretary of State Katie Hobbs over her office’s Election Manual, in a desperate bid to win the favor of Donald Trump in his failing campaign for the GQP nomination for U.S. Senate. Brnovich sues Hobbs in dispute over election procedures:
Republican Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is joining with Republican Party officials to sue Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in an escalation of a dispute over the election procedures manual she is required to complete.
Like I'm one to poke people for spelling.
That being said I would love to meet this Election Procedures Manuel. He sounds like a really knowledgeable, consistent with the law sort of guy.
Happy Friday. https://t.co/IbAXyJdUdW
— The AZ – abc15 – Data Guru (@Garrett_Archer) April 30, 2022
The two have been at odds for months over the manual that tells county officials how to run elections, and have tangled in other fights as well. Brnovich threated to investigate Hobbs for temporarily taking down an online signature collection system used by candidates in order to update it with new congressional and legislative district maps approved early this year.
Hobbs then sought a judge’s intervention to stop that promised investigation, but the judge said her request was premature. Brnovich then farmed out the investigation to the Cochise County Attorney’s Office.
There is a political backdrop to all the drama. Brnovich is seeking his party’s nomination for U.S. Senate in hopes of taking on Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in November. Hobbs, meanwhile, is running for governor.
The lawsuit by Brnovich and the Yavapai County Republican Committee was filed in Yavapai County Superior Court. It seeks an order compelling Hobbs to provide a manual that gives county election officials clear guidance on how to run elections and complies with current state election law.
Hobbs submitted the manual as required on Oct. 1, but Brnovich refused to approve it. That left the one she completed two years before as the guidelines for the 2020 elections. A contract lawyer Brnovich hired to review the manual sent her a letter in early December where he said large parts of it did not meet legal requirements.
.@GeneralBrnovich is suing Dem rival @SecretaryHobbs for not producing a "lawfully compliant" election procedures manual (he rejected her draft from last year). He didn't do the same either time this happened under fellow Republican Michele Reagan. https://t.co/DvQZad4lKA
— Jeremy Duda (@jeremyduda) April 21, 2022
Interesting side note: Brnovich is suing Hobbs in Yavapai County, which I'm sure she'll challenge. ARS 12-401(16) states, "Actions against public officers shall be brought in the county in which the officer, or one of several officers, holds office." https://t.co/VsftDvDXM8
— Jeremy Duda (@jeremyduda) April 21, 2022
In a Dec. 17 response, Hobbs told Brnovich much of the rejected material had been approved just two years earlier by him and Gov. Doug Ducey.
“There is no legal basis for these wholesale deletions, and they contravene the purpose of the Manual itself, leaving large gaps in election procedures, introducing inconsistency to longstanding processes, and creating unnecessary uncertainty and risk for election officials on the cusp of an election year that will already be challenging due to redistricting,” Hobbs wrote.
A funny thing happened on the way to court. The Judge was not amused.
Howard Fischer reports, Judge: Arizona AG’s lawsuit over election procedures flawed:
A lawsuit by Attorney General Mark Brnovich against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is flawed, a Yavapai County judge said Friday.
I believe you meant “politcally motivated,” an ethics violation by our partisan hack AG.
Judge John Napper noted that Brnovich is asking him to rule that Hobbs must submit a new Election Procedures Manual for his approval by this coming Wednesday. More to the point, the judge said that the attorney general wants him to order that the manual must have all the changes he wants.
The problem, Napper said, is that Brnovich has failed to explain to anyone — himself included — why the attorney general believes the provisions he wants removed are illegal.
Instead, the judge said, all Brnovich did is demand that Hobbs accede to the changes he wants [there’s that GQP authoritarianism again], changes she has so far refused to make.
Napper, however, indicated he’s not prepared to do that.
“I can’t figure out why they need to come out,” Napper told Assistant Attorney General Michael Catlett.
“I can’t figure out why the attorney general objects to them,” the judge continued. “Most of them appear to me to track the statutes and provide guidance on the statutes.’’
In fact, Napper said the only explanation Brnovich has provided so far about the requested changes is “opaque.”
The judge instead directed the attorney general to produce a point-by-point list by Friday, May 6, for Hobbs — and for himself — of why he wants each of the changes and, more to the point, why they are legally necessary. And then he gave Roopali Desai until May 20 to respond, setting up a June 2 hearing to hear arguments.
Napper also directed that Gov. Doug Ducey be added to the case.
That’s because the law requires that the manual be approved not just by the attorney general but also the governor. The judge said he’s not prepared to decide a dispute between Hobbs and Brnovich and then have Ducey come in at the last minute and say he wants something else.
Note: This is some sloppy, unprofessional lawyering. “Nunchucks” did join this lawsuit filed by the Yavapai County Republican Party, so it’s their attorney’s error, but still, the AG is expected to know better.
At issue is the law requiring the secretary of state to prepare a new manual every two years ahead of each election.
It is designed to provide guidance to county recorders, often repeating or amplifying what already is in state election law.
Brnovich refused to provide his signature on the manual, something that is required for it to take effect, demanding changes. When Hobbs responded that the manual she crafted does comply with the law, he filed suit.
Napper noted that Hobbs did make multiple requests to Brnovich to discuss the areas of difference. He asked Catlett why his boss didn’t respond. [Because it was a setup.]
— Robert Robb (@RJRobb) April 27, 2022
“Because we never got a legally compliant draft EPM,” Catlett responded.
“But that’s not how that works,” the judge shot back, saying that should have led to a conversation. In fact, Napper noted, there were things that Hobbs was willing to remove but found herself facing a demand by Brnovich to do things his way — or wind up, as they have, in his courtroom.
“The only thing that’s acceptable to you is your starting negotiating point is your draft?” he asked Catlett.
The judge also said it appears that some of the legal arguments Brnovich is presenting are inconsistent.
On one hand, Napper said, Brnovich contends that Hobbs included provisions in the manual that are not authorized by law. And Catlett said anything not spelled out specifically in the statute can’t be part of that guidance.
But Napper noted that Brnovich also wants him to order Hobbs to include entirely new language — beyond what the law requires — spelling out for county election officials the exact procedures they have to follow when verifying the signatures on early ballot envelopes.
That is based on [the bogus] allegations that Maricopa County is not adequately reviewing each ballot signature to determine if it matches that of the voter. And Brnovich even suggested the county was using artificial intelligence to do signature matching, a contention the county disputes.
The request by Brnovich left the judge confused. [Dumbfounded I’d say.]
He pointed out that the manual simply says that every signature needs to be verified by a human being.
And Napper said that’s exactly what state election law says. Yet he noted that Brnovich wants more.
“You’re asking the secretary to create out of whole cloth ways that individuals are supposed to verify signatures,” he told Catlett. “You’re asking her to just make that up with no guidance from anyone.” [Our little tinpot dictator “Nunchucks.”]
And Napper said he can’t — and won’t — order her to do that.
“The secretary isn’t allowed to sort of create their own rules about how things are done,” the judge said.
“They have to follow the statutes as they exist, which she did in her manual related to the verification of these ballots,” Napper said. “It almost tracks the statue exactly.”
Napper did reject a request by Desai to toss the case entirely because Brnovich waited four months after the deadline to adopt a manual before filing suit. [Laches defense.]
And the judge said he was not going to address allegations that Brnovich brought the lawsuit in a bid to help his campaign for U.S. Senate.
I don’t see how you cannot, Judge. This lawsuit is a politically motivated setup to try to damage Katie Hobbs. But she did everything she was supposed to do, by the book, by your own accounting. This has backfired on attorney general “Nunchucks” who has demonstrated not just his bad faith but unethical conduct in bringing a politicaly motivated lawsuit. He should be facing yet another ethics complaint with the State Bar of Arizona.
Multiple people have called upon “Nunchucks” to resign from office because of his repeated abuses of power in politicizing his office for his own benefit. The man is unfit to serve as attorney general.
The Democratic candidate for attorney general in 2022, Kris Mayes, explains, Mark Brnovich has misused the Attorney General’s Office:
Earlier this month, Arizona Republic columnist Bob Robb argued that GOP Attorney General Mark Brnovich is failing to fulfill his basic duties by refusing to defend Arizona’s mail-in voting system and is using the AG’s Office to advance his own political ambitions.
Robb is correct. So is Tim Steller, the Arizona Daily Star columnist who made similar arguments recently.
No attorney general in Arizona history has politicized and abused his authority as blatantly and comprehensively as Mark Brnovich. His failure to defend Arizona’s popular and fully constitutional system of mail-in voting in the case that was brought by the Arizona Republican Party before the state Supreme Court is just one example of Brnovich’s selfish dereliction of duty.
Not defending early voting is just 1 example
As I recently argued in my amicus brief before the Supreme Court defending mail-in voting, the way that nearly 90% of Arizonans vote is clearly constitutional and rests on more than 100 years of early voting history in Arizona. (The state high court declined to take special action jurisdiction and dismissed the case, meaning the Arizona GOP will have to start in Superior Court if it wants to continue its baseless assault on mail-in voting).
Indeed, early voting dates to our state’s formative years – when the very people who wrote Arizona’s Constitution also enacted early voting to allow soldiers leaving for World War I to cast their ballots.
In abdicating his duty to defend Arizona’s storied and popular early voting law in his filing before the Supreme Court, Brnovich was once again trying to pacify the right-wing GOP politicians who are behind this offensive challenge.
Brnovich’s cowardice in refusing to defend the rights of 90% of Arizona voters to use mail-in voting is only one of numerous examples of how he has inappropriately used this critical office as a launching pad for his political ambitions.
Let’s restore the AG’s office to its core mission
Perhaps the most blatant example came when Brnovich chose to sue and take legal positions that were blatantly contrary to the interests of two of his office’s own clients, the Arizona Board of Regents and the secretary of state – selfish political acts that engendered widespread rebukes and landed him in the equivalent of ethical rehab with the State Bar of Arizona.
But Brnovich has also sued to overturn the Affordable Care Act, manipulated the language of a 2018 ballot initiative, and set up a television station inside the AG’s office using taxpayer funds in an obvious attempt to boost his image for his U.S. Senate bid.
The scope of Brnovich’s misuse of the AG’s office is breathtaking. So is the silence coming from my GOP competitors in the 2022 race to replace Brnovich. Not a single Republican candidate for attorney general has called Brnovich out for politicizing the Attorney General’s Office.
In fact, at least one of those candidates has suggested that Brnovich hasn’t gone far enough in challenging the 2020 presidential election, a clear tell that the GOP plans to continue hurtling down the path of repurposing the Attorney General’s Office for their own political aims.
It is long past time to take politics out of the Attorney General’s Office and restore it to its core mission: serving as the chief legal officer for the state of Arizona, upholding the rule of law, fighting corruption and crime wherever it occurs, protecting Arizona’s most vulnerable citizens and defending individual rights, including voting and reproductive rights.
That is precisely what I plan to do as the next attorney general of Arizona.