A pre-hearing conference in the attorney discipline case against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will be open to the public, despite Hill’s specific request that the hearing Wednesday be closed to the public and press.
Former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Myra Selby, now an Ice Miller partner who is serving as the hearing officer in Hill’s disciplinary case, issued an order Tuesday making the pre-hearing conference open to the public. Documents filed in the case, In the Matter of: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156, show that Hill’s counsel sent an email to Selby on Friday requesting that the conference be closed.
Hill is facing disciplinary charges stemming from his alleged groping of four women at a party in March 2018. The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed the complaint in March 2019, and Selby was appointed hearing officer last month.
In response to the Friday email, Selby asked the parties to provide briefing on whether the conference should be open to the public. According to Hill’s brief — filed on his behalf by former commission director Donald Lundberg and Indianapolis criminal defense attorneys Jim Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer — “(t)he purposes of a pre-hearing conference are ‘obtaining admissions, narrowing the issues presented by the pleadings, requiring an exchange of the names and addresses of prospective witnesses and the general nature of their expected testimony, considering the necessity or desirability of amendments to the Disciplinary Complaint and answer, and any other matters as may aid in the disposition of the action.’”
Those actions, as prescribed in Admission and Discipline Rule 23(14)(e), are subject to public view under Rule 23(22)(a)(2), the commission argued in its brief. That rule requires that “all proceedings shall be open to the public,” with a few exceptions allowed pursuant to Section 22(b).
“None of those extraordinary reasons exist in this case,” the commission wrote. “… No witnesses will be called, no disruption is expected, no known security issues have been raised, no confidential information will be revealed, no known medical information will be discussed, and the Commission knows of no other ‘good cause’ that exists that would require a closed hearing.”
But Hill’s defense team said a pre-hearing conference is neither a “hearing” nor a “proceeding” subject to public access. The defense lawyers expressed particular concern about the effect press coverage would have on the conference.
“The presence of the public at the pre-hearing conference would detract from its goal: a candid discussion of the case to facilitate its resolution,” Hill’s brief says. “… With counsels’ and the Hearing Officer’s comments subject to publicity in the press, the participants in the conference will need to focus, in part, on how statements might play in the press versus how the case can be efficiently managed to conclusion.”
Hill argued that other portions of his disciplinary case would be open to the public, and that “the public and the press have never been invited to attend pre-hearing conferences.” But according to the commission, the public is generally uninterested in what occurs during a pre-hearing conference.
“In this case, however, there is great public interest and rightfully so,” the commission wrote.
The public conference will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday in the Indiana Supreme Court Conference Room at the Indiana Statehouse.