Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission files complaint against Curtis Hill

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The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission complaint Curtis Hill
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill at a March 2018 rally held by President Trump in Elkhart, Indiana. Image: C-SPAN

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed a complaint against state Attorney General Curtis Hill on Monday. For over a year Hill has been facing accusations that he groped four women during a celebration in downtown Indianapolis in March 2018.

While these allegations have been previously investigated, the complaint still poses genuine danger for Hill’s political career. If he is found to have violated the state’s Rules of Professional Conduct for licensed attorneys, the Republican could face disbarment and, as a result, be forced from office.

Who is the the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission?

The little-known state agency, which is part of the state’s judiciary branch, investigates claims of misconduct by licensed attorneys in Indiana. It consists of seven lawyers and two non-lawyers, all appointed by the Supreme Court.

The Commission does not normally investigate elected office holders or consider removing them from office, but the Attorney General’s position is unique. The Indiana Constitutional requires the Attorney General be a licensed attorney. This means if the Commission revokes Hill’s licence to practice law he would instantly cease to be eligible to serve as Attorney General.

Did Curtis Hill engage in “moral turpitude?”

One possible avenue for the Commission to sanction Hill would be a finding that he committed an offence that included “moral turpitude” (a legal term defined as “behavior that gravely violates the sentiment or accepted standard of the community”).

The Commission filing against Hill is clearly concerned with accounts from a March 14th downtown Indianapolis gathering.

“(Hill) engaged in a pattern of misconduct,” the filing says. “As the elected Attorney General, (Hill) holds a position of extreme public trust and his office touches on virtually all areas of state government. As a government lawyer, (Hill) has a heightened duty of ethical conduct that is long established in Indiana ethics law.”

Four women, including State Representative Mara Candelaria Reardon, have accused Hill of inappropriately touching them at the event.

“Curtis Hill leaned toward me as if he could not hear me and placed his hand on my back and slid his hand down to my buttocks and grabbed it,” Candelaria Reardon wrote in an Indianapolis Star op-ed in July 2018. “I said ‘back off,’ and walked away.

“Later in the evening,” she continued, “I was standing with a group of people, and he approached the group. Hill came up behind me and put his hand on my back again and said ‘That skin. That back.’ I recoiled away before he could touch my buttocks again.”

Following the allegations from Candelaria Reardon and others, there have been repeated calls for Hill to resign (including one from fellow Republican, Governor Eric Holcomb).

An October 2018 report written by a special investigator found the women’s testimony credible, but declined to press charges.

Little impact on Hill, so far

Curtis Hill has denied the allegations and, despite the calls for his resignation, he has remained in office. In November 2018 he was honored by his fellow Republicans by being elected Vice-Chair of the Republican Attorney General Association.

Hill’s accusers have not gone away, however. In January, Candelaria Reardon sponsored a series of bills into the Indiana House of Representatives to prohibit the use of state funds to defend elected officials accused of sexual misconduct, and make it easier to remove Attorney Generals from office.

Two of Hill’s accusers were very pleased to hear about the complaint by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission. In a joint statement issued on Monday, Gabrielle McLemore and Samantha Lozano wrote:

“The filing today was not in response to any action we took, as we did not file a grievance with the Indiana Disciplinary Commission. However, we are pleased to see that the sexual harassment and battery we faced from Curtis Hill is being taken seriously and that his ethics as the state’s highest legal officer are being reviewed.”

Hill now has 30 days to respond to the complaint. Hill’s attorney, Don Lundberg, is confident that his client will once again avoid any sanction. Referring to previous investigations into the allegations, he told the Star:

“After having reviewed all the information, all three reached the same conclusion: no further action was warranted. The Attorney General remains focused on serving the people of Indiana. This matter will be addressed through the proper process outlined for disciplinary complaints in the State of Indiana and we are confident it will conclude in a manner consistent with the results of the prior investigations.”

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