In a first for the state of Indiana, the law license of the elected attorney general has been suspended for attorney misconduct.
Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill will serve a 30-day suspension beginning May 18 for violations of Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (d), the state Supreme Court ruled Monday.
The court was unanimous in handing down the suspension with automatic reinstatement, provided that there are no other suspensions in place at the end of the 30-day period.
The discipline against the embattled Hill comes just shy of two years after allegations became public that he groped four women at a March 2018 legislative party. The women include Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, and legislative staffers Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano.
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission brought the ethical charges against Hill–who is in the midst of a reelection campaign–in March 2019, and a four-day evidentiary hearing was held in October.
The Disciplinary Commission had recommended that Hill serve a two-year suspension without automatic reinstatement, while hearing officer and former Justice Myra Selby recommended a 60-day suspension without automatic reinstatement.
It is not immediately clear what the suspension will mean for his ability to serve as attorney general or for the Attorney General’s Office. State law requires the attorney general to be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana,” but it doesn’t specify whether the person can continue serving after facing professional disciplinary action.
Donald Lundberg, an attorney who represented Hill in the disciplinary case, declined any immediate comment Monday. Messages to Hill’s office and campaign seeking comment weren’t immediately returned.
Hill has denied doing anything wrong, testifying during a hearing in October that he briefly touched Reardon’s back while leaning in to hear what she was saying during the party and was startled to realize she was wearing a backless dress. Hill said “absolutely not” when asked whether he grabbed Reardon’s buttocks.
Reardon testified that Hill, smelling of alcohol and with glassy eyes, was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her dress to clench her buttocks. “A squeeze, a firm grasp,” she said.
Hill, 59, also refuted testimony from the three female legislative staffers—ages 23 to 26 at the time—that he inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments during the party.
The court’s order directs Hill to not undertake any legal matters beginning May 18 for 30 days.
Hill, who is seeking election to a second term this year, has rebuffed calls from Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state GOP leaders for his resignation since the groping allegations became public in July 2018.
A spokeswoman for Holcomb, who would appoint a successor if the attorney general’s office is vacant, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.