INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -
A prominent supporter of Indiana’s attorney general is arguing that a
proposed suspension of his law license over allegations of drunkenly groping
four women is excessive and that even the proposed punishment wouldn’t force
him from office.
It remained unclear
Monday whether Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill could remain in as
the state government’s top lawyer if the Indiana Supreme Court agreed with a
hearing officer’s recommendation released Friday that his law license be
suspended for at least 60 days.
Hill has denied
wrongdoing and rebuffed calls from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other
GOP state officials for his resignation for his actions during the March
2018 party at an Indianapolis bar marking the end of that year’s legislative
Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby wrote in her report to the court that
Hill’s “conduct was offensive, invasive, damaging and embarrassing” to the
women. She recommended a 60-day suspension of his law license without
automatic reinstatement under which the sanction could continue indefinitely
until lifted by the state Supreme Court, which will make the final decision
in the professional misconduct case.
James Bopp, a Terre
Haute attorney who is a former vice chairman of the Republican National
Committee, objected to Selby’s findings that Hill should be held to a higher
standard of conduct because of his status as the state’s top law enforcement
“He should not be
treated more harshly because he is a public official, that’s the job of the
voters,” said Bopp, who helped start a legal defense fund for Hill in 2018.
“When people do things in office, they’re judged by the voters.”
comment were left Monday for attorneys who represented Hill during an
October hearing before Selby. Hill’s attorneys have 30 days to submit
filings to the Supreme Court, which doesn’t face a deadline for ruling.
The wait for that
decision comes as Hill is seeking reelection to the office he first won in
2016, but first needs to win nomination in June’s state Republican
convention. He’s being opposed by Adam Krupp, who stepped down in January as
the Holcomb-appointed head of the state revenue department to run for
decision is key as state law requires the attorney general to be “duly
licensed to practice law in Indiana” but doesn’t otherwise specify those law
House Speaker Brian Bosma, who called for Hill’s resignation in 2018, said
he believed Hill could remain in office while under a short-term suspension,
although the prospect of an indefinite suspension causes uncertainty that he
hoped the five-member Supreme Court would address in its final ruling.
“I will publicly
ask for them to give clarity to the state on the issue rather than making
someone file (a lawsuit) for clarity after the fact,” Bosma said.
office has lawyers reviewing the issue but didn’t have additional comment
Monday, Holcomb spokeswoman Rachel Hoffmeyer said.
Bopp said he
believed Hill could continue in office during a suspension handling
administrative matters while delegating any legal work to others.
against Hill include that he grabbed the buttocks of Democratic Rep. Mara
Candelaria Reardon and inappropriately touched and made unwelcomed sexual
comments toward three female legislative staffers - ages 23 to 26 at the
time. A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges and the women
have filed a federal lawsuit against Hill and the state accusing him of
sexual harassment and defamation.
Selby found that
Hill used his state office “to intimidate the four women who alleged
misconduct, three of whom were young women at the onset of their careers.
(Hill’s) unwavering public campaign in defense of himself showed little
restraint and amplified the impact of his conduct on the four women.”
Bopp contrasted the
proposed punishment for Hill to the 60- or 30-day suspensions ordered by the
Supreme Court for three southern Indiana judges whose actions during a night
of downtown Indianapolis bar-hopping escalated a fight during which two of
them were shot.
that Hill committed a misdemeanor-level battery offense, but that the state
attorney disciplinary commission didn’t prove the more serious allegation of
“In that context I
just think the recommended punishment is grossly excessive,” Bopp said. “I
just think treating him way more severely is just not justified.”
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Torr said it would likely fall to the
state Supreme Court to state whether a temporary attorney suspension would
allow Holcomb to appoint a replacement for Hill. “If he was disbarred, the
answer would be obvious,” said Torr, a Carmel Republican. “In this case, the
answer would not be so obvious.”