The Indiana Supreme Court has appointed a former justice to oversee the disciplinary case against Attorney General Curtis Hill, rejecting Hill’s motion to forgo a hearing officer but also rejecting a Disciplinary Commission motion to appoint a three-person panel to hear the case.
Former Justice Myra Selby, now a partner at Ice Miller LLP, has been named the hearing officer in In the Matter of: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156. Selby will now essentially act as the “trial judge” over the disciplinary matter, serving in place of the high court to manage pretrial discovery, oversee the public disciplinary hearing and issue findings of fact and conclusions of law that are referred to the five justices.
The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed an ethics complaint against Hill on March 19, alleging he committed attorney misconduct by committing Class B misdemeanor battery and Level 6 felony sexual battery. The disciplinary charges stem from allegations that Hill drunkenly groped four women at a party in March 2018. A special prosecutor declined to criminally charge Hill.
The commission moved the Supreme Court to appoint a three-master panel to oversee Hill’s disciplinary case, a step generally only taken in judicial discipline actions. Hill, however, moved to decline a hearing officer entirely, saying the disciplinary action represented a judicial branch attempt to address a political issue better left to Indiana voters.
In court filings, Hill, through his attorney in the discipline case, former commission director Donald Lundberg, emphasized the fact that he was never formally charged for the alleged gropings. But the commission maintained that criminal charges are not a prerequisite to disciplinary charges and accused Hill of acting as if he were above lawyer ethics rules.
Among the ethics charges brought against Hill are allegations he violated Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) by reflecting adversely on his honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer; Rule 8.4(d) by engaging in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and; Admission and Discipline Rule 22, which is the attorney’s oath, by engaging in offensive personality.
“The hearing officer is director to qualify and assume jurisdiction,” the Supreme Court wrote in its Monday order. “Upon her acceptance of appointment, the hearing officer shall have the authority and affirmative duty to manage this case and bring it to conclusion as expeditiously as possible.”
Selby served on the Indiana Supreme Court from 1995 to 1999, becoming both the first woman and the first black person to serve on the state’s high court. As a justice, she would have been involved in decisions as to whether attorneys should be sanctioned for alleged misconduct.
At Ice Miller, Selby now handes corporate internal investigations, appellate practice, compliance counseling, complex litigation, risk management and strategic and other legal advice, according to her Ice Miller profile. She is also a commercial mediator and arbitrator.
Though Selby will oversee the proceedings of Hill’s disciplinary case, the five justices will make the final decision on what, if any, sanctions should be imposed. Options include disbarment, suspension, a censure or no discipline at all.
It’s unclear what impact any discipline imposed on Hill might have on his ability to serve as attorney general, which by statute requires the office holder be an attorney in good standing. The AG has consistently denied the groping allegations and has resisted widespread calls for his resignation.