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Arizona Democrat Charlene Fernandez awarded attorney fees in GOP suit – The Arizona Republic

Three Republicans, including secretary of state nominee and state Rep. Mark Finchem and U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar, must pay $75,000 in attorney fees after losing a defamation case against a former state lawmaker.

Finchem, Gosar and then-state Rep. Anthony Kern of Glendale sued Charlene Fernandez, the former Democratic leader of the Arizona House after she and all other House Democrats wrote a letter complaining about the trio’s presence at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

They lost their defamation suit in April. On Monday, Yuma County Superior Court Judge Levi Gunderson awarded Fernandez $75,616 in attorney fees in an order that slammed the three for filing a frivolous suit that he found was “filed against a political opponent primarily for purposes of harassment.”

Gunderson noted that the lawsuit appeared to be written for an audience other than the judge, given its references to Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and open borders.

The thee Republicans took issue with the letter from Fernandez and others, which asked federal authorities to investigate the three for their role in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

More: Gosar, GOP allies call for abolishing the FBI in response to Mar-a-Lago search

Finchem and Gosar were part of the crowd that marched to the Capitol from a Trump rally and were photographed outside the building. They say they did not enter the building.

Gosar was inside the Capitol, participating in the certification of the presidential election. Ali Alexander, who helped organize the “Stop the Steal” rally, has credited Gosar as one of the forces behind the movement. Gosar later claimed credit for starting the “revolution” when he spoke to an audience in his western Arizona district.

Finchem, Kern and Gosar did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Fernandez, who later resigned from the Arizona House of Representatives to take a position in the Biden administration, called the decision a relief.

‘We all knew this was harassment’

“I believe it sends a message out there,” Fernandez said. “These frivolous lawsuits should not be tolerated.”

Noting that the letter was signed by 42 other Democratic members of the Legislature, Fernandez said she could only conclude one reason why she was singled out.

“We all knew this was harassment,” she said.

She said she didn’t know if she would ever see the money, but said she can now “breathe” after months of tension due to the suit.

“You’re talking to someone who has never even gotten a driving citation,” she said. The only time she had gone to court before this was to serve on juries, she said.

Gunderson had sharp words for some of the attorneys who represented the Republican lawmakers.

Noting that one attorney said he is bound by ethical standards to “zealously defend” his clients, Gunderson said that provision of the ethics code was removed in 2003, something that the attorneys, who were not licensed to practice in Arizona should know.

“Arizona attorneys are expected to be competent and diligent but are not expected to be zealous,” Gunderson wrote. “That is an extremely important distinction,” he added, underlining his last sentence for emphasis.

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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