GOP lawmaker Alexander Kolodin sanctioned for 2020 ‘kraken’ lawsuit, other election cases

By: - December 14, 2023 1:43 pm

State Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale. Photo by Gage Skidmore (modified) | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

A GOP legislator was admonished by the State Bar of Arizona and placed on probation last week for his role in lawsuits challenging the 2020 election, including the infamous “kraken” lawsuit that made implausible and evidence-free claims of massive election fraud.

State Rep. Alexander Kolodin was also disciplined for representing two Republican legislators and a GOP congressman in a defamation lawsuit filed against a Democratic lawmaker that was tossed out of court after a judge ruled it was “primarily (filed) for purposes of harassment.”

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Kolodin entered into a settlement with the Bar on Nov. 6. The Scottsdale Republican accepted the admonition and 18 months of probation, agreed to pay around $2,700 in court costs and must complete several continuing legal education courses focused on attorney ethics. 

An Arizona Supreme Court disciplinary panel found that Kolodin “violated his duty to the legal profession, the legal system, and the public” by bringing cases that were backed by no evidence, misrepresented Arizona law and sought relief that would be illegal.

In a statement to the Arizona Mirror, Kolodin claimed the Bar disciplinary process was being abused by “radical left wing activists” who filed three separate complaints against him. 

“It is unfortunate that the bar’s effort to keep lawyers honest is being gamed by political operatives,” he said. “I was happy to have the opportunity to protect my team and allow them to put this matter in the rear view mirror.” 

Baseless 2020 election lawsuits

In the “kraken” lawsuit that was spearheaded by former Donald Trump attorney Sidney Powell, Kolodin played an important role because he was licensed to practice in Arizona. Federal lawsuits must be filed by an attorney who is admitted to the district court that will consider the case, and Kolodin was the only one of the several attorneys able to file cases in Arizona.

The 2020 lawsuit, which was swiftly rejected by a judge because it had no evidence and made outlandish claims, including that then-Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Gov. Doug Ducey engaged in “massive election fraud” “for the purpose of illegally and fraudulently manipulating the vote count to manufacture an election of Joe Biden.” The lawsuit sought to disqualify all of Arizona’s mail-in ballots from counting in the election as well as to disqualify Arizona’s electors from casting their votes for Biden, or to order them to put the Grand Canyon State’s electoral votes toward Donald Trump instead. 

U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa nixed the case in a scathing dismissal, calling the relief Kolodin sought “extraordinary” and adding that it would “utterly disenfranchise” millions of Arizonans who voted in the 2020 election. 

“The Complaint’s allegations are sorely wanting of relevant or reliable evidence,” the court wrote. 

While Kolodin and the other attorneys submitted more than 300 pages of attachments, the purported evidence was mostly “anonymous witnesses, hearsay, and relevant analysis of unrelated elections.” 

“Allegations that find favor in the public sphere of gossip and innuendo cannot be a substitute for the eamest pleadings and procedure in federal court,” Humetewa wrote. “They most certainly cannot be the basis for pending Arizona’s 2020 General Election.” 

Another of the cases Kolodin filed was a “Sharpiegate” lawsuit. Laurie Aguilera claimed that, when she voted on Nov. 3, 2020, she was given a Sharpie marker to mark her ballot and that it bled through the other side, causing her ballot to be rejected, and that she was denied the chance to cast a new one.

But those claims were refuted by Hobbs, the secretary of state, who said that the claim that the use of Sharpie markers somehow disenfranchised voters was “patently false.” The Maricopa County Election Department also explained that using Sharpies was the preferred method to mark ballots because of its quick drying time and that the ballots were designed even if the ink did bleed through, it would not cause improper votes or the ballot to be cast aside, saying that “the sharpie issue is baseless.”

In another suit, Donovan Drobina said that his 2020 general election ballot was rejected by the tabulation machines and he was told to put it into a box to be counted later. Kolodin claimed in the lawsuit that state law required every vote to be counted by a tabulator and the machines had to be properly certified in order to “have perfect accuracy.”

Kolodin and his clients later called a voting systems expert to testify that the tabulation system used in Maricopa County had previously been found to reject correctly marked ballots. But during an evidentiary hearing, the court precluded the expert’s testimony since the ballot machine he had evaluated was not the same one used in Maricopa County. 

On Nov. 29, 2020, the court dismissed the case, quoting the same expert in its decision. 

“There’s nothing perfect in this world, including voting systems,” he said, which the court pointed out “directly contradicts the linchpin” of the case. 

The judge also pointed out that the voter sought to cast a new ballot in the 2020 election, which was impossible since voting after the polls close is illegal. The case also lacked evidence that that tabulator issue was caused by the state and not an error on the voter’s part, or that the plaintiff had been denied the ability to cast a ballot. 

A defamation lawsuit meant to harass

Kolodin was also the attorney for Mark Finchem, Anthony Kern and Paul Gosar, who accused then-Democratic House Leader Charlene Femandez of defamation for signing a letter to Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and FBI Director Christopher Wray that accused the Republican elected officials of advocating for overturning the results of the 2020 presidential election and encouraged them to investigate them for possibly inciting or encouraging the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol. At the time, Finchem and Kern were members of the Arizona House of Representatives and Gosar was a member of Congress.

Fernandez was the only person, out of the 42 Democratic state lawmakers who signed the letter, who was named in the defamation suit. 

The court dismissed the case and found that the suit was not made in good faith — and that a significant portion of Kolodin and his clients’ complaints “were written for an audience other than the assigned trial court judge.” 

The court also found that the case was “brought for an improper purpose, having been filed against a political opponent primarily for purposes of harassment.” 

Kern, Finchem and Gosar were ordered to pay $75,000 to cover Fernandez’s legal fees in the case. 

Kolodin does not have a previous disciplinary record with the Bar and cooperated with the Bar throughout the proceedings, according to the agreement. 

During the 2023 legislative session, Kolodin spoke in favor of a bill to nix the state Bar as the body that holds Arizona attorneys accountable for their conduct, in favor of the state Supreme Court. 

He added that he would much prefer to be judged by the members of the Supreme Court, who were appointed to their seats by the governor, than members of the State Bar’s board, who he said often have different politics than him. 

Kern, who is now a member of the Arizona Senate, also tried to protect Kolodin by changing state law to protect attorneys who filed bogus election lawsuits.

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Caitlin Sievers
Caitlin Sievers

Caitlin joined the Arizona Mirror in 2022 with almost 10 years of experience as a reporter and editor, holding local government leaders accountable from newsrooms across the West and Midwest. She's won statewide awards in Nebraska, Indiana and Wisconsin for reporting, photography and commentary.

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