INDIANAPOLIS — Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to, in effect, dismiss the disciplinary case filed Tuesday that could force him out of office if his law license is suspended or revoked.
Hill attorney Donald Lundberg argues in his motion to prevent the disciplinary process from continuing that Hill's alleged criminal conduct, for which a special prosecutor last year declined to bring charges, does not make Hill unfit to practice law.
"The complaint does not aver how the alleged criminal conduct reflects adversely on honesty or trustworthiness. Neither battery nor sexual battery is a crime of dishonesty or breach of trust," Lundberg said.
The Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission, which regulates the professional behavior of all Hoosier attorneys, claims 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 punishment by the state's highest court.
But Lundberg insists that Hill's behavior "during a social occasion that was not a government or legal profession function" does not fall under the purview of the Disciplinary Commission, especially since Hill neither was charged nor convicted for his alleged misdeeds.
"The administration of justice is not implicated by personal conduct of a lawyer who happens to be a public officeholder, especially when a duly authorized special prosecutor has determined there was no basis to charge criminal conduct," Lundberg said.
Lundberg points out that Candelaria Reardon and the three General Assembly employees allegedly touched by Hill on the back and/or buttocks without their consent are each seeking civil monetary damages from the state in connection with Hill's behavior.
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"It is imprudent for the Disciplinary Commission to use the power of a lawyer discipline proceeding to seek an adjudication of factual and legal issues that may benefit the private interests of putative litigants against the state of Indiana," Lundberg said.
Lundberg also notes there are separation-of-power issues raised by a judicial branch agency seeking to professionally discipline a Republican statewide elected official in a co-equal branch of government.
"Whether the alleged conduct, found by a special prosecutor to not warrant a criminal charge, does 'incalculable harm to the public perception of the attorney general's office' is a political question on which Indiana voters should be heard, and not one that should be decided by another branch of government," he said.
In response, Disciplinary Commission attorneys Seth Pruden and Angie Ordway said the Supreme Court's rules do not permit the subject of a disciplinary complaint to make a motion to dismiss or take other action to delay the appointment of a hearing officer to evaluate the allegations.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush did not immediately deem Hill's motion out of order.
Instead, Rush asked the commission to prepare by March 31 a more detailed analysis of why Hill's motion to decline the appointment of a hearing officer should be denied.
If Hill's law license ultimately is suspended or revoked by the Supreme Court, he no longer would meet 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.