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Kari Lake attorney suspended for 60 days for lying to Arizona Supreme Court

Posted 6/8/24

PHOENIX — Kari Lake's attorney is suspended from practicing law for 60 days after lying to the Arizona Supreme Court about the record in her case, the state's presiding disciplinary judge …

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Legal

Kari Lake attorney suspended for 60 days for lying to Arizona Supreme Court

Posted

PHOENIX — Kari Lake's attorney is suspended from practicing law for 60 days after lying to the Arizona Supreme Court about the record in her case, the state's presiding disciplinary judge concluded Friday.

In a new order, Judge Margaret Downie said Bryan Blehm told the justices that the record "indisputably" reflects that there were at least 35,563 ballots illegally injected into the system in the 2022 gubernatorial race. The high court concluded that was a lie and slapped Blehm and co-counsel Kurt Olsen with a $2,000 fine.

That, however, didn't end the matter, with the State Bar of Arizona seeking to have Blehm suspended from practicing law for six months and one day.

That would have required him to seek reinstatement before being able to ply his trade again in Arizona. And it would then be up to Blehm to demonstrate "by clear and convincing evidence" that he had been rehabilitated, that he has complied with all applicable discipline orders and rules, as well as his "fitness to practice and competence."

In her decision, Downie said there was plenty of evidence to support such a stiff punishment, ranging from multiple other offenses that had initially been charged and the fact he is an experienced lawyer to his refusal to acknowledge the wrongful nature of his conduct.

"The State Bar's concern that respondent will engage in similar misconduct in the future is not unreasonable and finds some support on the record," she said.

But Downie said she and other members of the court's disciplinary hearing panel concluded there are countervailing factors, including that this is Blehm's first disciplinary case.

"And the misrepresentations at issue were so blatantly obvious that there was little chance the Arizona Supreme Court would be misled by them," she said.

Downie also noted Blehm did not show up for a hearing by the disciplinary panel when it was considering the appropriate punishment. Still, she said, the panel agreed to give him the benefit of the doubt — for now.

"The hearing panel concludes that a long-term suspension is excessive for a first offense that, while serious, involved relatively isolated and easily detectable misstatements," Downie wrote. "Should respondent engage in future ethical misconduct, though, a harsher sanction may well be warranted."

The panel's decision, which takes effect in 30 days, is final unless Blehm asks the Supreme Court to intercede.

He did not immediately respond to multiple messages seeking comment. There also was no comment from Lake, who continues to seek to overturn the 2022 race that, according to the official tally, she lost by 17,117 votes to Democrat Kari Lake.

Still pending is a parallel complaint against Olsen.

There has not yet been a hearing by the disciplinary committee against him. But since Olsten is not licensed in Arizona — he was allowed to practice here under a rule that allows out-of-state lawyers to appear on a case-by-case basis — the most severe penalty that could be imposed is a formal reprimand.

The lie to the Supreme Court was only part of the initial complaint against Blehm. Downie and the disciplinary panel agreed to dismiss a separate count accusing him to failing to provide "reasonable diligence'' in representing his client.

In her most recent filing, Lake, still represented by Blehm and Olsen, said she is entitled to a do-over of the race based on a claim that new evidence shows Maricopa County election officials did unannounced texts on vote-counting equipment and knew they would fail on Election Day. Lake said that, in turn, led to long lines at the polls and resulted in people deciding to leave without voting, people she contends would have supported her.

In arguments in May before the court of appeals, Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Thomas Liddy called that "absolute hogwash."

The judges have yet to rule. And it is pretty certain whoever loses will seek Supreme Court review even though Lake is now running to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate for the seat being vacated by Krysten Sinema.

In his initial response to the State Bar complaint, Blehm admitted he may not have been up to the job of representing Lake in her attempts to overturn the election.

In a letter to the organization, he said Lake's legal bid "should have been handled by a much larger law firm with resources." But Blehm said many attorneys are loath to take on the legal system — as he said he has done with issues related to elections — for fear of running afoul of and being punished by the courts.

"We implicitly deny individuals full access to our judicial system as finding suitable counsel can be difficult if not impossible,'' he wrote.

The bottom line, Blehm said, Lake "was left represented by a small sole proprietor with few to no resources."

But Blehm also has made no secret of his belief that the judiciary has been involved, at least indirectly, in hiding election fraud and even in overthrowing the Trump presidency in the 2020 election.

In a letter after the disciplinary committee opened its investigation, Blehm said he believes he is being targeted because of a post on X, formerly Twitter, where he said the "national security apparatus conspired to induce the Arizona Supreme Court to create its disinformation task force."

That refers to the decision of Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel to form a Task Force on Countering Disinformation. The idea was to provide responses to false claims that otherwise would go unanswered, undermining public confidence in the courts.

"Whether foreign or domestic, Arizona’s courts must be prepared to address attempts to discredit the justice system through the use of disinformation," Brutinel said in forming the task force.

Blehm, in his post, had a different explanation.

"The answer is simple, they were conspiring to do what they had been doing to other countries for decades, to overthrow the government of the United States of America and once they executed their plan, which they did, they needed to control the media and judicial narrative to convince the public that all was well," he wrote.

All that, Blehm said in his letter to the disciplinary committee, relates to the work being done on behalf of Lake and others who have gone to court to overturn election results.

"The lawfare being waged against conservative attorneys, especially those involved in election related law will soon drain the bar association of anyone willing to raise election challenges on behalf of conservative candidates," he wrote. "There will soon be a unibar where there is no dissent or contrary opinion on issues that matter, in this case, our elections."