INDIANAPOLIS (CN) — A lawsuit is seeking to have a vacancy declared following the 30-day suspension of acting Attorney General Curtis Hill which resulted from findings that he groped four women during a holiday party in 2018.
Four Indiana residents filed the lawsuit in Marion County on Thursday, and claim that because Hill’s law license is suspended, a vacancy may be declared and a new attorney general may be appointed by Governor Eric Holcomb.
“The Indiana Supreme Court has repeatedly held that a suspension from the practice of law of an attorney who is an elected official in an office requiring a license to practice law prohibits that official from performing any of his or her duties or responsibilities and creates a ‘vacancy’ in that office,” the complaint claims.
The lawsuit follows a Monday decision from the Indiana Supreme Court, where the court declined a request from Holcomb to clarify if a vacancy existed, claiming that such an intervention would be “inappropriate.”
Hill’s suspension was handed down by the Indiana Supreme Court on May 11, after it found credible the accusations that Hill grabbed and touched four women during a party known as the “Sine Die Celebration.”
One of Hill’s accusers, state Rep. Mara Reardon, claimed in a federal lawsuit that after she exchanged pleasantries with Hill at the party, he “leaned toward Ms. Reardon, placed his hand on her back and slid his hand down, underneath her dress, reached to her buttocks and grabbed it.”
The other three women, who were then all legislative staffers, claimed that Hill engaged in similar behavior including Samantha Lozano, who claimed that Hill grabbed her by the waist and pulled her close to him.
While the four women’s lawsuit was dismissed in March, U.S. District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson found that Hill’s actions were nonetheless “reprehensible.”
“There is no doubt that the allegations as to Attorney General Hill’s actions toward Plaintiffs at the Sine Die Celebration, which the court must accept as true at this stage of the litigation, describe disgraceful and reprehensible conduct,” wrote Magnus-Stinson in her 37-page ruling.
Regardless of the legality of Hill’s actions, an investigation performed by the state’s disciplinary commission resulted in a report that the Indiana Supreme Court relied heavily upon before suspending the attorney general.
“Respondent’s conduct, both during and after the Sine Die party, has caused injury to the four women. Respondent’s conduct was offensive, invasive, damaging, and embarrassing to the four women,” the report states. “Further, respondent’s conduct, both during and after the Sine Die party, has had an adverse impact on the public’s perception of our state’s executive branch and on the profession.”
Prior to his suspension, Hill had maintained his innocence and called the women’s allegations “troubling” and “vicious.” Following the ruling, Hill expressed respect for the ruling but did not apologize for his alleged actions.
“I accept with humility and respect the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling of a 30-day suspension of my license with automatic reinstatement,” Hill said in a press release. “I offer my deepest gratitude to my family, friends and the entire staff of the Office of the Attorney General. My staff has worked tirelessly and without interruption and will continue to do so on behalf of all Hoosiers.”
Even if Hill does remain in office, he is up for election this year and will face down three other challengers in the upcoming Republican primary, including former Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita who announced he was running this week.
“Running against a Republican officeholder is not something I ever would want to do, in just about any circumstance. But our incumbent is wounded,” Rokita said in a press release. “The unanimous Supreme Court ruling, by Republican appointed and conservative Justices, after a significant investigation of the facts made this choice clear.”
The four plaintiffs are represented by Indianapolis attorney William Groth, of the law firm Macey Swanson LLP.
The attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.