Lawsuit on suspended Indiana AG's fate stalls

The Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS — A lawyer maintains the Indiana attorney general’s office is trying to stymie a court fight on whether Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill can be ousted from office while his law license remains suspended until next week for groping four women during a party.

No action has been taken on the lawsuit filed May 21, four days after Hill began a month-long suspension that was ordered by the state Supreme Court. The court, however, declined to take up a request from Gov. Eric Holcomb on whether he could appoint someone to replace Hill as the state government’s top lawyer.

The lawsuit filed in Marion County by Democratic lawyer William Groth on behalf of four Indianapolis residents argues Hill no longer meets state law’s requirement that the attorney general be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana” and that he doesn’t have the authority to give his legal duties to a deputy until his suspension ends June 17.

Groth said lawyers for the attorney general’s office objected to his motion for a speedy ruling and slowed down the process of selecting a new judge after the original one assigned to the case stepped down.

“The other side is engaged in a game of trying to run out the clock,” Groth said.

The attorney general’s office didn’t immediately reply to messages seeking comment Wednesday on the lawsuit.

Hill has rebuffed the calls from Holcomb and other state Republican leaders for his resignation and is being challenged by three other Republicans in his reelection bid. Holcomb said after last month’s Supreme Court decision that he wouldn’t take further action toward possibly appointing a replacement for Hill.

Hill, 59, has denied doing anything wrong at a party marking the end of the 2018 state legislative session where the groping occurred.

Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon testified during an October hearing 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.

Three female legislative staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time — testified Hill inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments during the party.

The state Supreme Court said in a unanimous ruling last month that the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that (Hill) committed the criminal act of battery.”

Groth said he would file a new motion Thursday asking Marion County Judge Gary Miller to rule on the case before Hill’s suspension ends June 17. The attorney general’s office, meanwhile, has requested that it have until July 10 to file a response on the lawsuit — 24 days after the suspension’s conclusion.

Groth said he was focused on seeking a court ruling before Hill could return to the attorney general’s office.

“If that doesn’t happen, we will have to evaluate the situation at the time and decide what, if anything, we want to do next,” he said.

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