Former Arizona Election Attorney Starts Process to Sue Kris Mayes for Defamation, Demands $2 Million

Jennifer Wright, who served as the Election Integrity Unit (EIU) civil attorney under Attorney General Mark Brnovich, started the process this past week to sue current Attorney General Kris Mayes for defamation by filing a Notice of Claim. Someone from Mayes’ office told the media that Wright was fired or forced to resign, but Wright has produced evidence showing she resigned voluntarily.

“Over the past few years, I’ve become jaded by people in positions of power abusing that power for partisan gain & further subjugation of the American people,” Wright tweeted. “On 1/5/23 I was shocked when an outright lie was propagated by Arizona’s Chief Legal Officer, @krismayes, about me.”

While Wright was at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO), she handled complaints about election fraud and sparred with Maricopa County over the 2020 election, sending them four letters demanding evidence to look at, which the county mainly ignored. After she resigned from the AGO, she joined Abe Hamadeh’s legal team contesting his election loss to Mayes (pictured above), stating that she decided to do so because Mayes was “targeting” her.

State law requires former government employees suing the state to file a Notice of Claim before filing a lawsuit, which must be done within six months of the reason for suing. Wright said she “prayerfully considered” the lawsuit, and on the final day of the six months, decided to go ahead with it.

Wright said in her Notice of Claim that Robert Anglen of The Arizona Republic indicated that “[a] Mayes official twice confirmed to me that you had been ousted and you had been told to resign or be fired.”

He added, “the AG’s office stands by its statement that you were asked to leave, and the story will continue to reflect that.”

Wright said that “well-established case law makes it actionable in defamation to even accurately publicly disclose the terms of an employee’s departure in a way that is not only disparaging, but could harm that individual’s professional reputation.”

Although the newspaper “finally issued a modest and incomplete correction to the false story,” she said, “But by then the damage to my professional reputation had already been done.”

Wright said “professors and colleagues” began contacting her concerned about her “ouster.”

Wright explained, “As an attorney, my ability to woo clients, associate with a firm, apply to be a judge, or otherwise use the skills of my profession are largely dependent on my reputation and standing in the community.”

Wright said she is asking for $2 million total in damages, broken down into $1,140,500 for “10 Years Gross Estimated Lost Earnings,” $250,000 for “Reputational Damage,” $159,500 for “Distress-related Damages,” and $450,000 for “Punitive Damages.”

Although a government employee acting within the scope of their employment cannot be held liable for punitive damages under Arizona law, Wright alleged that Mayes was not. “[W]here a public employee willfully violates the law by publicly disclosing personnel information in violation of the Ariz. Admin Code § R2-5A-105(D), the public employee and entity would likely not be construed as acting within the scope of his employment,” she said in the Notice of Claim.

She referenced a public records request she’d made previously demanding records related to the conditions surrounding her departure from the AGO, including conversations with AGO employees and the media. She named the journalists Anglen, Washington Post reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, and Soros-funded Votebeat reporter Jen Fifield.

Wright demanded a response by July 14.

She added, “Given this is a renewal of a request previously made pursuant to A.R.S. § 39-121 et seq., failure to respond by July 14, 2023 will be deemed a denial of the public records request subject to litigation.” A.R.S. 39-121.02 allows someone who has been denied public records to file an appeal with the superior court.

Wright emailed the Notice of Claim to Mayes on Monday and asked her to respond by Tuesday at noon if she would agree to waive service, so Wright wouldn’t need to serve her officially. When Mayes did not respond, Wright emailed her again. She added a request for a return receipt, and after sending the email from both her personal and work accounts, received responses stating that the emails were auto-deleted without being read.

On Wednesday, she officially served Mayes and three other employees with the Notice of Claim. One of them was Mayes’ Chief Deputy Dan Barr, who worked at the progressive firm Perkins Coie with activist attorney Marc Elias before starting with the AGO. He may not have left that position before assuming the chief deputy position, which would be a conflict of interest.

If the lawsuit proceeds, Wright will likely be allowed to depose Mayes herself. However, if the state decides to settle with Wright instead, Mayes can avoid a deposition.

Wright asked the Arizona Supreme Court in March to investigate whether Mayes violated ethics rules by releasing attorney-client privileged work to the public. Mayes released select portions of the Brnovich administration’s investigation into election fraud from the AGO’s criminal division while ignoring Wright’s work on the civil side of the EIU, which resulted in people filing 17 bar complaints against Brnovich.

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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].



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