The judge scheduled to oversee a legal challenge to Arizona Senate Republicans’ 2020 election audit recused himself shortly before a planned hearing.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Christopher Coury issued an order Sunday afternoon that said he was removing himself from the case after the court received filings at 4 p.m. that mentioned new attorneys for the first time, including Chris Viskovic, who worked in Coury’s office as an extern within the last five years.
Viskovic is now a junior associate at Kolodin Law Group PLLC, which is representing Florida-based cybersecurity firm Cyber Ninjas in the case, according to 12 News.
The order said the case would be reassigned but did not lay out a timeline or name a different judge.
The state Senate’s audit of the 2020 contest includes a recount of the 2.1 million ballots cast in Maricopa County and a forensic audit of the voting machines. The GOP-led Arizona Senate hired Cyber Ninjas to lead the review, which is taking place in Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix.
Democrats sued to stop the audit the day before it was set to begin, arguing that it violates state election security laws, but declined to pay a $1 million bond set by Coury on Friday that would have enacted a temporary pause in the audit over the weekend. The judge ordered the auditors to provide documents about their procedures for a hearing on Monday, which was set for 11 a.m. local time.
Lawyer Kory Langhofer, who is representing Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, asked Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick to overturn the order, but the duty justice declined to intervene.
On Friday, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who is in charge of state elections, asked Mark Brnovich, the state’s attorney general, to investigate whether there were any violations of state law, citing local media reporting about security lapses in the audit process. Brnovich, a Republican, denied Hobbs’s request in a letter later that day, saying it “does not meet the standard of a credible allegation.”
Although President Joe Biden narrowly carried the state of Arizona in the 2020 contest, the first Democratic presidential contender to do so since former President Bill Clinton in 1996, the state’s electoral tally was subjected to multiple recounts and several rounds of litigation. Former President Donald Trump has emphasized the importance of the Maricopa County audit and demanded Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey send in state police or the National Guard to protect the team conducting the review.
“Governor Ducey will be held fully responsible for the safety of those involved [in the audit]. State police or National Guard must be immediately sent out for protection,” Trump said in a missive on Saturday. “The Democrats do not want to have this information revealed, and they will do anything to stop it. Governor Ducey must finally act!”
Ducey’s office did not return a request for comment from the Washington Examiner.
Trump criticized Ducey in the past, saying he “betrayed the people of Arizona” when he certified Biden’s 2020 victory in his state.
The Arizona GOP voted to censure Ducey in January, along with former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, after the trio of Republicans either did not support Trump’s bid to overturn the election results or endorsed Biden before the election. Ducey was censured for wielding “dictatorial powers” by imposing restrictions at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.