Dismiss defamation suit against Kari Lake, ASU First Amendment Law Clinic filing says

By Kirsten Dorman
Published: Wednesday, August 23, 2023 - 5:37pm

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Kari Lake
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Kari Lake explains what's next on May 24, 2023, the day after a judge tossed the last remaining claim in her bid to overturn the 2022 gubernatorial election.

On Monday, Arizona State University’s First Amendment Clinic filed a motion for a judge to dismiss Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s defamation lawsuit against failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

Gregg Leslie is the First Amendment Clinic’s executive director, and was part of filing that motion.

“We’re just involved in this as a free speech matter,” Leslie said. “We’re not here to argue the merits of her claims or his defense. We’re just saying that under this law that protects First Amendment interests, we’d like to see this suit get quashed.”

In short, he said: “We’re not here to support left or right causes. We’re here to support free speech.”

Leslie says the motion was filed under Arizona’s Anti-SLAPP law, or "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation." This law protects speech on matters of public concern, like elections, from lawsuits.

Stephen Richer
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Stephen Richer

Leslie said that no matter what the arguments in this case are, or where they’re coming from, “This is an example of a government official who is suing somebody over statements she made about his official action.”

Which Leslie said makes it fair game for the Anti-SLAPP law.

He added that because Arizona’s Anti-SLAPP law was amended last year and is relatively new, the clinic’s goal is to flesh out procedures for future petitioners.

“What kind of proof is required?” he asked. “And what kind of proof overcomes that?”

Leslie said that the clinic’s actions do not reflect support for Lake on its part, or ASU’s.

“This is not ASU deciding to support Kari Lake,” he said in response to online critics of the filing. “This is one legal clinic at the law school deciding to support a free speech claim.”

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