AG Hill asks Supreme Court to slash costs in discipline case

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill is pushing back against a request that he foot the bill for nearly $57,000 in expenses related to his attorney discipline process, arguing instead that he should only have to pay about one-third of the amount requested by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

Hill argues in new court filings that he should only be charged $17,402.21 related to the disciplinary action, which resulted in a 30-day suspension of his law license. That amount includes $2,654.66 payable to the Disciplinary Commission, $14,497.55 payable to the Supreme Court for expenses incurred by hearing officer Myra Selby and $250 payable to the clerk.

Last month the commission asked the Supreme Court to order Hill to pay a total of $56,955.61 in costs related to the disciplinary action. The proceedings began with a formal complaint filed in March 2019 after the AG was accused of sexual misconduct, a four-day trial in October 2019 and the order in May that he be suspended for 30 days without automatic reinstatement for violations of Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 8.4(b) and (d). Hill subsequently was deprived the opportunity for reelection after he lost the Republican Party nomination for attorney general to former Rep. Todd Rokita.

In an objection filed on Hill’s behalf by former commission chief Donald Lundberg, part of Hill’s defense team in his discipline case, the Republican AG takes issue with the costs the commission attributes to its work and to Selby’s.

Specifically as to the commission, Hill’s filing points to a $1,017.01 charge related to Allison Lukas, a witness who testified for the commission during the October 2019 disciplinary trial. That expense includes a charge of $248.98 labeled “Hotel for Pruden,” referring to commission attorney Seth Pruden.

The hotel “appears to have been the charge for a room at the Hyatt Place Hotel near the Indianapolis hotel on two days or nights, October 20 and 21, 2019,” the filing says. However, Lukas stayed at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Indianapolis, not far from the commission’s office.

“It is unclear why the Commission would have used a room at a hotel near the airport on two days when the witness was staying downtown and could readily have been prepared for her testimony at the Commission’s office,” Lundberg wrote for Hill. “$248.98 of the Commission’s expenses should not be charged to the Respondent.”

Hill is seeking an even greater reduction in the expenses attributable to Selby. In particular, he objected to the 14.10 hours she billed related to a motion to quash filed by the Indiana inspector general; 3.40 hours billed related to a motion to intervene; 3.40 hours billed related to the allegation that Hill violated Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 22; 5.40 hours billed for “consulting time” between Selby and an associate at Ice Miller, where Selby is a partner; 0.50 hours spent reviewing the Supreme Court’s final discipline order; and 8.20 hours billed for “media matters.”

The motions to quash and intervene were unsuccessful, Lundberg noted, while both Selby and the Supreme Court found in Hill’s favor on the alleged violation of Rule 22. Additionally, Lundberg wrote, Selby’s jurisdiction ended when she issued her hearing officer’s report in February 2020, so she should not be able to bill for time reviewing the May 2020 report from the Supreme Court.

Also, Lundberg continued, “The Respondent objects to taxing costs to the Respondent for time in consultation between the Hearing Officer and her associate, none of which would have been necessary had the Hearing Officer done all of the work.”

Further, “The Respondent did not turn this case into a media circus. The complaining witnesses and their counsel did. The Respondent should not be charged with Hearing Officer’s costs of addressing media issues.”

Finally, Hill is seeking an overall two-thirds reduction in the costs taxable to him. He argued that the commission took an “extreme” position on sanction, urging a two-year suspension of his law license without automatic reinstatement. Later, the commission argued for a “lengthy” suspension without automatic reinstatement. Hill, however, argued he should receive no more than a private reprimand.

“It is simply impossible to achieve an agreed resolution in a discipline case when the Commission’s posture on sanction is extreme. A Respondent finding himself in those circumstances faces a grim choice: acquiesce in the Commission’s extreme position or contest the matter at a hearing. The Respondent chose the latter option and in doing so obtained a result that was 2.7% of the sanction urged by the Commission to the Hearing Officer,” Lundberg wrote.

“Moreover, the Commission failed to prevail before the Hearing Officer and the Court in its disputed claim that the Respondent violated the oath of attorneys contained in Admission and Discipline Rule 22. These factors should all be taken into account in the taxation of costs in this case,” the objection continues. “The expenses taxed to the Respondent should be discounted from those proposed in the Commission’s itemized statement. For the foregoing reasons, after deducing certain expenses described in paragraphs above, the Court should reduce the remaining Commission and Hearing Officer expenses by two-thirds.”

The case is In the Matter of Curtis T. Hill Jr., 19S-DI-156.

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