INDIANAPOLIS – If Attorney General Curtis Hill receives even a short-term suspension without automatic reinstatement, the process to get his law license back could last more than a year.
That wrinkle in Hill's ongoing discipline case is giving lawmakers concern as they wait for what the Indiana Supreme Court ultimately decides in the case.
Hill is accused of groping four women at a function in 2018. Last week, a hearing judge in the attorney misconduct case recommended a 60-day suspension without automatic reinstatement.
“If you have a license suspension without automatic reinstatement then you have to go through almost the entire process of getting your bar license. It's a long arduous process,” said Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray. “You have to even take the ethics exam again, so you're looking at a process that's going to take 10 months to a year for that license to be back in his hands.”
A short suspension likely would have meant Hill could retain his state elected post. But a suspension that is effectively longer complicates the issue.
“I'm not here to tell the attorney general or anyone else what to do,” Bray said. “We're watching that pretty closely. We're looking at the law. It doesn't speak much to that, so clarity is a bit of an issue.
Hill has long denied any inappropriate conduct and a special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges. The women filed a federal lawsuit against Hill and the state. Hill is also seeking re-election – a nomination vote would occur at the Republican State Convention in June. He has several GOP opponents.
Margaret Christensen, partner at Dentons Bingham Greenebaum LLP in Indianapolis, specializes in attorney discipline cases and said the reinstatement process is extensive.
The attorney must pass the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination, which is only offered a handful of times a year.
“Then the timeline from filing of the petition for reinstatement to final hearing depends on discovery needs and the hearing officer's schedule. But it's often a full-day hearing, so I would ballpark 6 months as the very shortest timeline to obtain reinstatement after the conclusion of a suspension,” Christensen said.
If the suspension is considered a vacancy, Gov. Eric Holcomb would get to fill the post.
But the governor said earlier this week he is not vetting possible replacements.
“I have not put any thought into that. I'm not going to put the cart in front of the horse,” he said. “We'll wait for some more clarity. The process is still playing out.”