Judge Dismisses Hobbs Election Lawsuit, Praises Vindicated Assistant ROV, Elections Office Staff

Editor’s note: Two new passages were added to the conclusion of this story on the afternoon of June 26, 2024. One is a statement from Allen Long. The other is a statement from Laura Hobbs’ webpage. We apologize for any confusion. 


As Assistant Registrar of Voters/County Clerk Joanna Francescut exited the Shasta County Courthouse Tuesday, a subtle smile upon her face suggested the outcome of the high-profile, controversial Hobbs vs Long et al lawsuit that accused the elections department of fraud, among other things.

The birth of election-denier Laura Hobbs’ case extends back to the March 5 2024 primary election, when she was a candidate for the District 2 Supervisor race.

Laura Hobbs brought a lawsuit against the county because she lost her campaign for District 2

Challenger Allen Long won with enough votes to avoid a run-off, which made him the presumed winner.

Endorsed by My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell, and a recipient of money from outsider son-of-a-billionaire Reverge Anselmo, and militia member Richard Gallardo, Hobbs described herself during her campaign as the only 100% MAGA and America First candidate.

Hobbs immediately cried foul about the election results. She asserted that she could have won the District 2 Supervisor contest — or at least could have participated in a run-off — if the elections department hadn’t committed name-placement errors and other alleged mistakes in the March 5 primary election.

She filed a crudely rendered hand-written lawsuit against Allen Long, and later added Cathy Darling Allen’s name.

Eventually, she gained representation by Alexander Haberbush, a nationally recognized election-denier revered by such election-denying notables as Jeffrey O’Donnell, Doug FrankMyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and Clint Curtis.

Closer to a verdict

Tuesday, in a hearing that lasted only about 70 minutes, Shasta County Superior Court Judge Stephen Baker — who’d listened patiently with neutral, Oscar-worthy facial expressions throughout multiple hearings over several months — dismissed the case, in blunt, sometimes blistering statements.

The day began a bit after 9 a.m., starting with about five minutes of Judge Baker’s comments about rules for media, such as a prohibition on publishing any audio from the hearing.

From left, Assistant Registrar of Voters Joanna Francescut and her representing attorney Christopher Pisano sit at one table, while Alexander Haberbush and his client Laura Hobbs sit at the other. Photo by Doni Chamberlain for A News Cafe.

Baker’s media reminders were followed by each attorney’s opportunity to pitch his case, with the caveat from Judge Baker to kindly keep the comments somewhat brief, as he’s already read all the materials provided by the attorneys, the sheer volume of which prompted Baker to laugh and comment about the stack of files, “You killed a lot of trees.” All jokes aside, Judge Baker cautioned the attorneys to keep that in mind and avoid being redundant.

Judge Baker read aloud the case’s background, starting with the March 5 primary election, moving on to several hearings, and winding up to the present day, and Tuesday’s final hearing.

The courtroom’s benches were mainly occupied by many well-known Hobbs supporters, such as Richard Gallardo, Lori Bridgeford, and Chriss Street. Street’s phone blasted several introductory “Bad to the Bone” notes before he finally switched it off, something that’s happened to Street during some supervisors meetings.

Hey, if the ring fits.

Attorneys’ arguments

Pisano went first, appearing on behalf of former Registrar of Voters Cathy Darling Allen and Allen Long, winner of the March 5 2024 District 2 Supervisor race.

Pisano works for Best Best & Krieger LLP (BBK), and is a founding partner of BBK’s Los Angeles office. The BBK  website says Pisano represents public agencies and private corporations in a variety of litigation matters, including land use, property valuation, water rights, health care litigation, unfair competition, inverse condemnation, construction, civil rights and general business disputes.

Tuesday, during his closing remarks, Pisano reiterated much of what he’d said in previous hearings; basically that Hobbs and Haberbush hadn’t met the burden of proof, nor produced evidence to support their claims.

“She had an opportunity to put on the case she wanted to put on, and this contest has a high bar,” Pisano said of Hobbs. “It’s a clear-and-convincing evidence standard.”

Pisano said that historically, courts need to uphold election results unless they find they were plainly illegal.

Attorney Christopher Pisano of Best Best & Krieger LLP represented former ROV Cathy Darling Allen and District 2 winner Allen Long.

“There’s a reason that the bar is so high, because we’re talking about doing something to alter what the voters wanted,” Pisano said.

“And the voters in this case voted by an excess of 50 percent for Mr. Long to fill that vacant seat. There’s no evidence those votes were illegal. There’s no evidence that people outside the county came in and voted for Mr. Long. There’s no evidence that anyone didn’t have an opportunity to vote. There’s none of that. The evidence is uncontradicted that Mr. Long received 5,410 legal votes for the District 2 race, which put him over the 50 percent threshold.”

Pisano argued that to not dismiss the Hobbs lawsuit could disenfranchise the 5,410 voters who chose Long.

Pisano said that if the petitioner had truly wanted to challenge the effect of the ROV’s mistake when staff used the local name-placement system, rather than the correct one from the state, Hobbs should have brought in an expert to provide statistical analysis, comparative analysis; something to show that the primacy effect was real, and then explain why, in their opinion, that unintentional error changed the outcome of the election.

Attorney Alex Haberbush of the Lex Rex Institute represented Laura Hobbs.

Of course, Haberbush disagreed. He pointed out that his client’s allegations against the ROV’s office were about more than just the alpha-way name-placement issue. He said there were multiple instances where other elections laws were violated.

“Not only were names improperly placed on the ballot, but we’ve had testimony from Ms. Francescut and Ms. Rodriguez saying that the public selection of name order for the county alpha list was not conducted publicly,” Haberbush said of Francescut and other elections office employee.

“We’ve have multiple eyewitnesses who were election observers testifying about issues with chain of custody issues with observer access, suggesting a pattern of flagrant disregard for observer access in the elections, such that they were not able to see the conduct of the counting of votes. This was another error that took place.”

Haberbush spoke at length about a pair of court cases, Gould and Bradley, that he said could be applied favorably to Hobbs’ case pertaining to alphabetical order of names on election ballots, and claims of anywhere between a 3-to-5 percent increase in votes for candidates whose names were placed higher on the ballot.

Haberbush clarified that they were not asking for a reversal of the March 5 election, but simply a new election that included Hobbs’ name in November.

Room 64 of the new Shasta County Courthouse awaits a Tuesday hearing to decide whether restraining orders would be granted to the petitioners. (Media isn’t allowed to publish photos of judges or their staff.)

Finally, it was Judge Baker’s turn to speak.

Judge Baker said Hobbs had a “profound” lack of evidence to prove her case.

Judge Baker went on to say that even if the court had applied a lower, civil burden of proof, the petitioner – Hobbs – still wouldn’t have prevailed in his court. He cited such reasons behind his dismissal as that the petitioner’s claims were vague, ambiguous and lacking foundation. He referred to “tens of thousands” of the petitioner’s exhibit pages that also lacked adequate foundation.

Speaking of tens of thousands of pages, at the last hearing Haberbush claimed that if all their audit-log exhibits were printed out, it would equal 90,000 pages, although at the hearing prior to that one, Haberbush said it would equal 20,000 printed pages.

Judge Baker cited such inadequate evidence examples as newspaper stories, podcasts, and inadmissible hearsay — all evidence that Judge Baker said is not considered permissible in legal proceedings.

One of the main points of debate and discussion in all Hobbs’ hearings centered around name-placement on the ballots, including the fact that the Shasta County Elections department inadvertently mistakenly used the local randomized alpha-way, rather than the state version. Even so, it appeared those were moot points in Judge Baker’s book.

“The petitioner states in one of the headings on the briefing, that Gould recognized that name placement creates an advantage. As a matter of law, I could not disagree more with that statement,” he said, adding that there’s no law that asserts that ballot name-placement creates an advantage.

Judge Baker said the petitioners had not offered expert testimony, or any evidence to support their claims that Hobbs’ name placement on the ballot caused her to lose the election, or that she would have won had her name appeared higher on the ballot.

Then Judge Baker focused his attention on the petitioner’s failure to provide any qualified election experts as witnesses.

“How could you possibly prove a primary effect without an expert witness?” Judge Baker asked.

Regarding the subject of witnesses, at the last hearing Haberbush called as a witnesses via virtual examination a man who spoke of his vast election data experience. That characterization rapidly fell apart when the man was questioned in turn by Pisano, who artfully unraveled any shred of validity that could remotely classify the man as an elections expert by any stretch of the imagination. In the end, Pisano characterized the man’s elections interest as merely a hobby, which meant the man could not rise to the level as an expert witness in the hearing on Hobbs’ behalf, which meant Judge Baker wouldn’t allow the man to speak as an expert witness.

According to Judge Baker, just one qualified elections expert provided testimony during the previous hearings.

“The only qualified elections expert to testify in this case was Joanna Francescut,” Judge Baker said.

That led to Judge Baker’s stern observations regarding how Francescut was treated as a witness. A sample of the unflattering words Judge Baker used to describe Haberbush’s treatment of Francescut during two days of intensive questioning included argumentative, accusatory, demeaning, undignified and lacking foundation.

“The court found this witness to be well-qualified in the field of elections, and found she and her staff competently informed regarding the functions of the office,” Judge Baker said of Francescut. “Although some mistakes were made, the court found them to be nominal and unintentional.”

Conversely, Baker said that the petitioner provided insufficient evidence to prove that the election department’s unintentional mistakes significantly affected the election’s outcome.

Judge Baker subsequently dismissed Hobbs lawsuit and pronounced the March 5 election as valid. In doing so, he exonerated Francescut and her entire elections department staff, all of whom had been vilified and verbally bullied by Hobbs supporters.

Pisano had prevailed over Haberbush. The obvious legal winners were Darling Allen, Long, and Shasta County voters.

But Judge Baker’s ruling ultimately vindicated Cathy Darling Allen, the former ROV who’d won her 2022 re-election with a noteworthy 68 percent of the votes. And yet, barely two years later Darling Allen’s career ended abruptly after she’d endured more than four years of pressure, scrutiny and even death threats, which led to a medical leave of absence in November. She retired last month, due in part to a sudden-onset heart-failure diagnosis that demanded she step down from her ROV post.

With Darling Allen’s departure, Francescut, the assistant ROV, took the reins of the elections department. With that, she heaped upon her already full plate not just Darling Allen’s duties, but when Francescut assumed the mantle as leader of the elections office, she was immediately targeted as fresh meat for those hungry for a convenient scapegoat for angry allegations that fraud was afoot in the elections office.

Following Judge Baker’s ruling, the courtroom emptied quickly and quietly. One person whispered as heading for the door, “Well, that was cut and dried.”

Community advocate Frank Treadway, who’s attended all Hobbs’ hearings, noted the contrast between Hobbs’ supporters’ behavior immediately before, and immediately after Tuesday’s hearing.

“They were giddy before, and gave her a round of applause as she walked down the hall with her attorney,” Treadway recalled. “Afterward, they looked befuddled, confused, shocked, and stunned.”

Outside, Francescut walked briskly from the courthouse, accompanied by attorney Pisano.

A smiling Assistant Shasta County ROV Joanna Francescut leaves the courtroom with attorney Christopher Pisano, escorted by the same Shasta County Deputy Marshal who’s presided over many of the Hobbs hearings in Judge Baker’s courtroom. Photo by Doni Chamberlain for A News Cafe.

The pair was escorted by a Shasta County Deputy Marshal. The Marshal remained with Francescut and Pisano from the moment they exited the sixth-floor courtroom, onto the elevator, down to the first floor, out the front courthouse doors, across Court Street, and safely to the first floor of the Shasta County Administration Center to Francescut’s office.

The fact that a deputy marshal escorted Francescut and Pisano to the relative safety of the elections department says everything there is to know about the volatile state of tension and division in Shasta County related to elections and politics.

Assistant Registrar of Voters/County Clerk Joanna Francescut.

After the hearing, Francescut provided a statement to ANC:

“I am very pleased with the the judge’s ruling, and the comments he made while granting our motion,” Francescut said following the hearing.

“I’m proud of my staff for the work they do every single day to serve our community and ensure our elections are accurate, transparent and fair.”

Once again, Francescut proves her ability to take the high road in the face of adversity. This week it’s impossible to ignore the irony of close timing, considering just last week the MAGA majority arm of the Shasta County Board of Supervisors rejected Francescut as the ROV to fill Darling Allen’s vacant seat during a farce of a two-day interview process. They ignored Francescut’s 16 years’ of elections experience, including work on four presidential elections. They inexplicably selected the least-qualified applicant — District 1 Chair Kevin Crye’s pick — former deputy district attorney Thomas Toller.

Guess what Toller and Crye have in common? Easy. They both hate Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. In fact, in 2022, Toller, who once worked as a Shasta County deputy district attorney, assisted Eric Jensen’s ultimately failed campaign in Jensen’s race to unseat Bridgett and become the new district attorney.

Meet Thomas Toller, Shasta County’s least-qualified, newest Registrar of Voters, wanted solely by Chair Kevin Crye, who strong-armed supervisors Chris Kelstrom and Patrick Jones to vote for him, or Crye threatened to vote for Francescut.

What a mystery to bypass the most-qualified person — Francescut — to fill the seat, and embrace Toller, an applicant with zero elections experience. This is a man who didn’t provide a single letter of recommendation, or have a solitary person stand up during the public comment time to speak in favor of his appointment.

But yet, directly across the street from county’s admin building in which Francescut was maligned and rejected, inside the Shasta County Courthouse, Superior Court Judge Stephen Baker praised Francescut as a true elections expert, and complimented Francescut and her elections department staff for a job well done.

It’s just another crazy example of backward Shasta County, where the Shasta County Board majority doesn’t select the best people to benefit Shasta County and its citizens, but rather, they choose personal favorites, the most likely people to further the board majority’s political and private agendas.

Just for today, we can bask in one major win: Laura Hobbs lost her case. Joanna Francescut, Cathy Darling Allen, Allen Long and the citizens of Shasta County are the ultimate winners.


UPDATE: Allen Long submitted the following statement to A News Cafe regarding Judge Stephen Baker’s decision to dismiss Hobbs’ lawsuit against Long, former ROV Cathy Darling Allen, and Shasta County.

Allen Long’s statement

Allen Long.

“I have complete faith in our elections department and the leadership of Joanna Francescut. I am grateful for Judge Baker’s ruling, which found no election irregularities and highlighted the outstanding work of our election personnel. Hopefully our county can now focus on important local issues like crime, homelessness and building our new new jail facility.” — Allen Long.

Laura Hobbs’ statement, as posted on the Redding Patriots’ Facebook page

Laura Hobbs

“A dangerous precedent was set today that says election officials can break election laws at will. As it currently stands, they can apply whatever alphabet draw favors their candidate, even one that was not conducted according to state law, without fear of consequence. In today’s climate of distrust with our elections, this will only further substantiate the public’s concerns. This ruling will be appealed.” — Laura Hobbs

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Doni Chamberlain

Independent online journalist Doni Chamberlain founded A News Cafe in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke. Chamberlain holds a Bachelor's Degree in journalism from CSU, Chico. She's an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She's been featured and quoted in The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Washington Post, L.A. Times, Slate, Bloomberg News and on CNN, KQED and KPFA. She lives in Redding, California.

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