INDIANAPOLIS — Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. is not immune from the Indiana Supreme Court's attorney discipline process just because he's a statewide elected official.
That's the response from the Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission to Hill's claim that the complaint filed last month against his law license should not proceed to the investigative stage, because, in part, it's up to Hoosier voters, and not the court system, to hold Hill, a Republican, accountable.
Seth Pruden and Angie Ordway, disciplinary commission attorneys, said Hill is seeking "special and favorable treatment" due to his position as attorney general that no other Indiana lawyer ever could obtain.
"He seeks this court, in essence, to declare that he is a lawyer whose conduct is above the 'Rules of Professional Conduct,' simply because he is the attorney general," they write.
"The commission can think of nothing that would deepen mistrust of the judicial system, diminish the esteem of the Supreme Court and prejudice the administration of justice more than if the court were to grant the respondent's motion."
Rather, they said, the five justices should fully consider whether Hill's alleged groping of four women, including state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, at a capital city bar in the early morning hours of March 15, 2018, warrants professional punishment.
In their 16-page filing, Pruden and Ordway point to numerous instances where lawyers who were not charged or convicted of a crime still were sanctioned by the Supreme Court for violating the rules that all licensed Indiana attorneys agree to follow.
They also note many similar cases where a lawyer's conduct outside the courtroom likewise served as the basis for a sustained disciplinary punishment.
Finally, they conclude, "There is no authority for the notion that the respondent should not be subject to the court's jurisdiction simply because he's an elected official."
"If it is 'unprecedented,' it is because it is unusual for an attorney general to commit criminal acts."
Chief Justice Loretta Rush is expected to rule in coming days on whether to grant Hill's March 20 motion to, in effect, dismiss the disciplinary case against him.
If she allows the case to proceed, a three-member panel will evaluate the commission's evidence of Hill's purported misconduct, provide Hill an opportunity to rebut the commission's claims and submit a report to the Supreme Court.
The court then can do nothing, reprimand Hill, suspend his law license, or revoke it permanently.
A suspension or revocation would mean Hill no longer meets the statutory requirement that the attorney general be "duly licensed to practice law in Indiana," and Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who has called for Hill to resign, would appoint a replacement.