The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 21, 2020 1:00 am


Honor over office

Resignation remains best option for Hill, GOP

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has never wavered as Gov. EricHolcomb and other state officials called for him to leave and three official inquiries yielded embarrassing details of his conduct at an end-of-session legislative celebration last March.

But Hill may find it difficult to continue his defiance if former Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby's recommendations are accepted by the Indiana Supreme Court. Selby, who oversaw the disciplinary hearing last fall, recommended that Hill's license to practice law be suspended for 60 days without automatic reinstatement.

It's unclear what might happen if the court concurs. The attorney general is required to be a licensed attorney, so Hill would presumably have to take a leave of absence during any period his license was suspended. But if the court decides against automatically renewing that license, his leave might last a good deal longer than 60 days.

If Hill's license is suspended, he would face a long and involved process to get it reinstated. The process involves a number of time-consuming steps, as a lengthy section of the Indiana Rules of Court details.

At the end of the suspension period, Hill would have to file a petition for reinstatement, pay a $500 filing fee and show that he has taken and passed the Multistate Professional Responsibility Examination within the past year. Along with demonstrating that he complied with the requirements of the suspension, Hill, who has maintained that his conduct at the legislative party was misinterpreted, would have to show that he has “genuine remorse.”

Then the Supreme Court would appoint a hearing officer, possibly a former member of the state disciplinary commission, who would hold a hearing, “making findings of fact, conclusions of law, and a recommendation on whether the attorney should be reinstated to the practice of law in this State.”

That report would be sent to the Supreme Court, which would then decide whether to reinstate Hill's license.

Meanwhile, the clock would be ticking toward a couple of hard deadlines. The state Republican convention, which will choose its slate of candidates for the November election, begins June 19; and Hill's term runs out next January.

As The Journal Gazette's Niki Kelly reported, House Speaker Brian Bosma is worried legislators could be left with a “jump ball” decision during a period when the legislature is out of session. If the Supreme Court accepts Selby's recommendation, Bosma said, it should also offer some guidance on whether Hill should be allowed to retain his office while suspended. This is a good idea, though it would be difficult for the court to address the question of how long is too long for the attorney general to be on leave while he awaits a decision on reinstatement of his license. It's even more unlikely the judges could help with the Republican Party's deliberations over whether to nominate Hill for a second term.

Meanwhile, a lawsuit filed by the four women who say the alcohol-fueled attorney general groped them or otherwise acted inappropriately at the after-session party winds its way forward.

Last November, when Hill announced his intent to run for reelection, he promised he would “never back down.” Such defiance sounds heroic, but Hill could serve his office, his state and his party much better by resigning.

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