New ‘general counsel’ position created in AG’s office

A newly created general counsel position has been announced in the Indiana Attorney General’s office, shifting leadership positions within its executive team.

Attorney General Curtis Hill announced the changes late Wednesday in a press release, naming previous Chief of Staff Joan Blackwell as the office’s first-ever general counsel. Blackwell has served as Hill’s chief of staff since 2017. Prior to her time in the Attorney General’s office, Blackwell worked as an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg, practicing bankruptcy, commercial law and litigation matters.

“Joan is an excellent lawyer and a truly outstanding member of the legal profession,” Hill said in a statement.

Spokespeople for the AG’s office did not immediately respond to questions about the duties of the newly created position. Hill remains embattled after fellow Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb and other leaders called for him to resign after a lawmaker and multiple other female legislative staffers accused Hill of groping them. Hill has denied the charges, but the women have vowed to sue.

Blackwell also previously served as a section chief in the Office of the Attorney General under a previous administration and as a staff attorney to then-U.S. District Judge Frank J. Otte of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of Indiana. Blackwell additionally teaches courses at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

The Chief of Staff role will now be filled by Mary Beth Bonaventura, who joined the Attorney General’s office a year ago as special counsel following her resignation as former Indiana Department of Child Services Director in December 2017.

Bonaventura resigned from DCS after writing a scathing letter accusing Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration of making decisions that “all but ensure children will die.”

Before her tenure at DCS that began in 2013, Bonaventura served as a magistrate judge in the Lake County juvenile court until she was appointed in 1993 as senior judge of the Lake Superior Court’s juvenile division.

“Mary Beth has an impressive breadth of leadership experience,” Attorney General Hill said. “She is uniquely qualified to oversee the multiple functions of our office as we continue to work hard every day serving the people of Indiana.”

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