Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill had his law license suspended for 30 days on Monday by the State Supreme Court after allegedly groping four women at a party in March 2018.
“We find, as did the hearing officer, that [Hill] committed acts of misdemeanor battery, conduct that under the circumstances of this case violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules,” the court’s 19-page per curiam opinion notes.
“[Hill’s] own testimony brings his criminal conduct directly within the ambit of the performance of his professional duties,” the court writes later on. “[Hill] went to the party with the purpose of discussing a bill affecting his office with key legislators and nurturing goodwill, he spent time at the party doing precisely these things, and while there he committed battery against a legislator and three legislative staffers.”
The unanimous decision summarizes the incident in question:
At the conclusion of the 2018 Indiana legislative session, several legislators, lobbyists, and legislative staff attended an event at a local bar. [Hill] also attended this event at the invitation of a lobbyist with whom [Hill] had been dining and drinking that evening. While at the event, [Hill] engaged in acts against four women—a state representative and three legislative assistants—that involved various forms of nonconsensual and inappropriate touching.
Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon alleged that Hill, while drunk and drinking, put his arm around her shoulder before sliding his hand down her back and grabbed her backside. She described the touching as “[a] squeeze, a firm grasp.”
Hill has consistently denied Reardon’s charges and said that he had simply touched the small of her back while attempting to lean in and hear a conversation and insisted that he was surprised to discover she was wearing a backless dress at the time of the incident.
Three other women also alleged unwanted contact.
One woman alleged touching essentially similar to that alleged by Reardon; that Hill moved his hand down her back, while moving her own hand down her own backside and touching her there without her consent. Another woman alleged that Hill rubbed her back without her consent. A fourth woman alleged that Hill put his arm around her waist and then pulled her toward him.
“Concerns regarding the events at the bar that night eventually were brought to the attention of legislative leaders, who privately commissioned a report from a law firm to examine potential employment law issues in connection with those events,” the court opinion notes. “After the report was prepared the legislative leaders met separately with [Hill] and with the four women, and [Hill] at this juncture was generally apologetic.”
Things changed after the report was “inappropriately leaked to the media by a legislative staffer.” Hill assembled his own team to refute the charges and eventually a special prosecutor was assigned to the incident. That prosecutor, while saying he thought the women’s claims were “true and credible,” declined against pressing formal charges in October 2018.
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission was next to investigate–after a disciplinary complaint was filed by that office in March 2019 alleging three violations of Indiana rules governing ethical behavior for attorneys. The commission also cited Hill’s boisterous defense after the report leaked as an “aggravating factor.”
During a hearing in October 2019, the hearing officer for the commission found Hill had violated two out of three ethical rules and recommended that he receive a 60-day suspension of his law license without being automatically reinstated by the Hoosier State bar.
Specifically, the commission determined that Hill engaged “in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice” and that he “[committed] a criminal act that reflects adversely on [his] honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.”
The court’s Monday decision provides for half of that requested punishment and Hill will instead be automatically reinstated.
There’s also a fair amount of both-sides upbraiding:
[W]e are compelled to note our strong disapproval and extreme disappointment with respect to the tenor of the parties’ briefs in this case. The Commission repeatedly refers to [Hill] in hyperbolic terms of sexual predation, and the Commission—entirely without support—accuses [Hill] of having committed perjury at the final hearing simply because the hearing officer, in endeavoring to reconcile all the testimony (including [Hill’s]), found that [Hill’s] conduct amounted to battery. [Hill] for his part alternately describes the Commission using terms such as “imperialist,” “coddling,” “dismissive,” and “arrogant,” and [Hill] devotes far too much of his briefing to entirely unfounded attacks on the Commission’s motives and integrity.
Read the full report and opinion below:
[image via in.gov]
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