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Judge Dismisses Complaints Against Arizona GOP

Published: Monday, May 10, 2021 - 5:36pm
Updated: Tuesday, May 11, 2021 - 11:35am
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A Maricopa County Superior Court judge decided against weighing in on a case brought against the Arizona Republican Party and its chair, Kelli Ward, by two GOP activists.

Judge Michael Kemp ruled that it’s not the court’s place to settle a dispute between Ward and two of her fellow Republicans, Bill Beard and Sandra Dowling. Beard and Dowling have accused Ward of refusing to acknowledge that enough signatures were gathered to call a meeting of the state committee — a meeting to decide whether or not the members of the state committee should redo a leadership election held in January.

Kemp wrote that the issue was “a non-justiciable internal political dispute,” echoing arguments made by attorney Jack Wilenchik for the Republican Party who filed the motion to have the case dismissed.

“As a general rule, the judiciary ought not to interfere with the internal affairs of a political party,” Kemp wrote in a decision released Monday afternoon.

Attorney Timothy La Sota, representing Beard and Dowling, told the judge last week they’re only asking the court to force Ward and other top Republicans in the state party to follow the GOP’s bylaws. They don’t trust Ward’s assessment that Beard and Dowling failed to gather enough signatures to trigger a call for the state committee meeting — a call La Sota said must be issued by Ward if the meeting is to occur.

La Sota likened the case for the GOP activists to that of country club members asking a court to enforce club bylaws. But Kemp wrote that the bylaws of a political party are distinct from bylaws for a country club or homeowners association.

Kemp also noted there’s another case, still ongoing, that could provide some remedy for Beard and Dowling — the pair filed a separate lawsuit seeking to review the ballots and election records from the January party leadership vote at the heart of the dispute. Dozens of Republican activists have requested that Ward order an audit of the party’s election.

The Republican Party allowed activists to review some of those records on Friday. But according to a GOP consultant who observed the process, party officials did not provide, or don’t have in their possession, all the documents necessary to confirm the validity of the vote count.

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