Indiana attorney general is suspended for 30 days for inappropriate touching at party
Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill. Photo from the Attorney General of Indiana website.
Updated: Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has been suspended from law practice for 30 days for the inappropriate touching of four women during a 2018 party at a bar.
The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Hill, with automatic reinstatement, in a May 11 opinion that found that Hill committed acts of misdemeanor battery at the party.
Hill “engaged in acts against four women—a state representative and three legislative assistants—that involved various forms of nonconsensual and inappropriate touching,” the court said in a per curiam opinion with no dissents.
The party was celebrating the end of the state legislative session. According to factual findings cited by the Indiana Supreme Court, Hill:
• Touched one woman’s bare back, rubbing his hand down her back to or just above her buttocks without her consent.
• Rubbed a second woman’s back without her consent.
• Put his arm around a third woman’s waist and pulled her toward him without her consent.
• Touched a fourth woman’s back, moving his hand down her back and moving the woman’s hand toward her buttocks and touching her buttocks without her consent.
After a legislative report detailing the allegations became public, Hill “went a step too far in decrying the allegations against him as not only ‘false’ but ‘vicious’ in a press release,” the Indiana Supreme Court said.
During ethics proceedings, Hill had contended that a certain amount of touching is to be expected at social gatherings. But the state supreme court said the hearing officer’s findings of a criminal battery were supported by descriptions of Hill’s “long, lingering and meandering touches.” Reactions to his conduct—by the women and others—also support the battery finding, the court said.
The Indiana Supreme Court found that Hill’s touching violated two disciplinary rules. One bars conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice. The other bars criminal conduct that reflects adversely on the lawyer’s fitness as a lawyer. His later denials were an aggravating factor, the court said.
A hearing officer had recommended a 60-day suspension.
The Indiana Supreme Court commended the hearing officer for her excellent work but criticized the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and Hill for the tenor of their briefs.
The court said the disciplinary commission referred to Hill “in hyperbolic terms of sexual predation” and wrongly accused him of perjury at a final hearing on his conduct simply because the hearing officer found that he committed battery.
For his part, Hill described the disciplinary commission using terms such as “imperialist,” “coddling,” “dismissive” and “arrogant,” the Indiana Supreme Court said.
In addition, the court said, Hill “devotes far too much of his briefing to entirely unfounded attacks on the commission’s motives and integrity. There are many legitimate legal arguments to be made in this case, which makes the parties’ inappropriate ad hominem attacks on one another a particularly frustrating distraction. We expect counsel to behave better in future cases.”
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb has asked the Indiana Supreme Court to clarify whether Hill’s suspension has created a vacancy that will allow appointment of a new attorney general, the Indianapolis Star reports. Hill has opposed the governor’s May 12 request, which is contained in a motion to intervene.
ABAJournal.com: “Indiana AG’s party behavior violated ‘heightened duty of ethical conduct,’ complaint says”
Updated May 15 at 11:15 a.m. to include information on the governor’s motion.