The Journal Gazette
Friday, May 22, 2020 1:00 am

4 file lawsuit to oust Hill from job

Claim that suspension makes him ineligible

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Four Indiana citizens filed suit in Marion County on Thursday to oust the Attorney General from his elected post because his law license is suspended.

“The plaintiffs believe that since he has been suspended from the practice of law for thirty days Curtis Hill is no longer qualified to serve as Attorney General. And, because his office is now vacant, the governor is the only person with the authority to appoint a successor,” a news release said.

The four plaintiffs are Jim and Kathryn Perron, Julia Vaughn and John Windle. All are residents of Indianapolis. They are being represented by Indianapolis attorney Bill Groth.

Vaughn is policy director for Common Cause Indiana, which is a nonpartisan organization that focuses on democracy – including open and accountable government and equal rights.

“Curtis Hill currently lacks the ability to practice law in the state – the most basic qualification for the job of attorney general,” she said. “He has been found guilty of criminal acts and used his office to intimidate his accusers. Allowing him to handpick his successor and reassume the office in 30 days undermines respect for both the law and our state government. The dark cloud of impropriety that hangs over the attorney general's office will not dissipate if the court allows Mr. Hill to continue to manipulate the process.”

Hill is serving a 30-day suspension of his law license after the Indiana Supreme Court found he violated attorney discipline rules. Specifically, the court found he committed misdemeanor battery against four women at an after-work party in March 2018.

But the court did not address the issue of whether Hill's suspension from the practice of law meant he would no longer meet the statutory qualifications required to be the Attorney General that the attorney general “shall be a citizen of and duly licensed to practice law in Indiana.”

A vacancy means Gov. Eric Holcomb – who long ago called for Hill's resignation – would appoint a replacement.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday denied a motion by the governor to intervene in the disciplinary case and seek clarity on whether Hill's suspension constitutes a vacancy.

But the new lawsuit is separate and distinct. A similar case was filed on Wednesday in Elkhart County.

The challenge points out there is no statute giving the Attorney General authority to name a deputy to assume his statutory duties and powers while he is suspended from the practice of law.

“We bring this litigation today because leaving this important question unanswered weakens the foundation of Indiana government,” Jim Perron said.

“For the public trust to be upheld, the rule of law must be followed, particularly when public officials are involved. We ask the court to take swift action to issue a ruling that gives Governor Holcomb clear direction to exercise his authority to fill a vacant office.”

Hill's suspension ends June 17. He is also running in the Republican State Convention against three other people for the GOP nomination for Attorney General.

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