INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana Supreme Court on Monday declined to decide if the suspension of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s law license constitutes a “vacancy” in the office, which would have allowed Holcomb to name a new attorney general.
Gov. Eric Holcomb’s counsel on May 12 filed an emergency motion to intervene, asking the Indiana Supreme Court if he needed to appoint a new attorney general.
In a Monday order, the Indiana Supreme Court said the answers sought by Holcomb’s motion were extraneous to the disciplinary decision, so intervention would be inappropriate.
The same court on May 11 temporarily suspended Curtis Hill Jr. from practicing law for 30 days starting May 18. His law license will be automatically reinstated next month. The court found Hill violated professional conduct rules.
The suspension stems from a March 2018 incident: Four women said Hill groped them in an Indianapolis bar at a party to celebrate the end of the legislative session. A special prosecutor had previously cleared Hill of any criminal wrongdoing in the matter, and a lawsuit filed by the women was thrown out in March by a federal judge.
Melissa Gustafson, public information officer for the attorney general’s office, said Hill appointed Aaron Negangard, who was the attorney general’s chief deputy, to assume responsibilities of attorney general until June 17, when Hill’s law license is to be reinstated. That’s one day before the Indiana Republican Convention, which will air for 90 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. June 18 on WISH-TV.
In an emergency motion filed Tuesday, the governor’s counsel, Joe Heerens, asked if Hill will no longer have the “requisite qualifications” to serve as attorney general when suspended and if Holcomb should appoint a successor for the remainder of Hill’s term, which ends Dec. 31.
Heerens noted that the court’s suspension ruling “was silent as to the effect on the suspension of Attorney General Hill’s ability to perform any of the duties and responsibilities of the Office of Attorney General.”
The governor’s counsel also said the duties and powers of the attorney general could not be performed by someone with a suspended law license. The emergency motion tells the court, “The qualification to be attorney general is not simply that the attorney general be ‘duly licensed’ but that the attorney general be ‘duly licensed to practice law in Indiana.’”
The emergency motion from the governor’s counsel also says, “Given that the Governor has a duty under both the Indiana Constitution and the Indiana Code to appoint a successor should a vacancy occur in any state office, the Governor has a strong interest in determining whether the suspension of an Attorney General’s law license, for any period of time, creates a vacancy and obligates him to name a new person to serve as the Attorney General for the remainder of the current term.”
Hill, 59, is Indiana’s first African-American man to be attorney general.
Hill is seeking a renomination to run again in November for the attorney general’s position. Potential challengers include Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter, former U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita and lawyer John Westercamp.