Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill has won a victory in the continued fallout of the sexual misconduct allegations against him, successfully moving a federal judge to dismiss him as a defendant in a civil lawsuit brought against him and the Indiana Legislature. Also, the state lawmaker who helped initiate the complaint has been dismissed as a plaintiff.
Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana on Tuesday terminated Hill as a defendant in the lawsuit brought by Democratic State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and current and former legislative staffers Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano. The women sued Hill and the state last year after they say Hill drunkenly groped them at an early-morning party in March 2018.
After their allegations became public, the women say they were subjected to harassment and discriminatory behavior at the hands of Hill and their colleagues in the Indiana House and Senate. Their initial case – brought against Hill and the state – was dismissed in March.
In an amended complaint filed later that month, the women once again raised allegations of Title VII violations, this time against The Indiana House and Senate as their employers. Hill was also sued for state-law claims of battery, defamation and false light invasion of privacy.
As with her March ruling, Magnus-Stinson on Tuesday dismissed without prejudice the state-law claims against the AG, with leave for plaintiffs to refile those claims in state court. The chief judge determined she did not have supplemental jurisdiction over any of the state-law allegations.
“While it is true that without Attorney General Hill’s alleged conduct at the Sine Die Celebration the Title VII claims would not exist, the focus of those claims is not on the battery itself, or the House’s and Senate’s failure to prevent battery,” Magnus-Stinson wrote in her order. “The focus of those claims is on the actions of Plaintiffs’ ‘colleagues, superiors, and subordinates’ – none of whom are Attorney General Hill – after Plaintiffs accused Attorney General Hill of battery, and how the House and Senate handled those actions.”
Similarly as to the defamation and false light allegations, the court said those claims “have no connection – loose or otherwise – to Plaintiffs’ Title VII claims against their employers.”
That leaves only the Title VII allegations against the legislative bodies, which were brought only by Brock, DaSilva and Lozano. Thus, in addition to ordering Hill’s termination as a defendant, Magnus-Stinson also ordered Reardon’s termination as a plaintiff.
The chief judge ordered the parties to pursue the “efficient resolution” of the remaining claims. “To that end, the Court requests that the Magistrate Judge confer with the parties regarding a possible resolution of this matter short of trial.”
But the chief judge did decline Hill’s motion for sanctions against the four women. He had argued that they violated the court’s March order by re-filing the state-law claims in federal court and by “vexatiously multiplying” the proceedings.
Magnus-Stinson, however, said the second amended complaint raised viable federal claims, while the first did not. She also noted that she did not decide in her first order whether she had supplemental jurisdiction over the state-law claims, while her second order included that analysis.
Hill was represented in his individual capacity by Crown Point attorneys Geoffrey G. Giorgi and Izabela Bebekoski of Giorgi & Bebekoski LLC.
“Mr. Hill is pleased that the Court has again entered an order dismissing him from this action, leaving the remaining action in the federal court proceeding to address issues that did not and do not involve him in any way,” Giorgi said in a statement to IL. “The remaining claims against him that the Plaintiffs have alleged will be properly challenged in state court should the Plaintiffs attempt to file those claims in that forum.”
The women are represented by Indianapolis lawyers Kimberly Jeselskis, B.J. Brinkerhoff and Hannah Kaufman Joseph of JBJ Legal. IL has reached out to a spokesperson for the women and their attorneys for comment.
The case is DaSilva, et al. v. Indiana House of Representatives, et al., 1:19-cv-2453.
The federal court ruling comes as Hill is serving a 30-day suspension of his law license for violations of Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (d). The violations were also related to Hill’s conduct at the sine die party and after.
Finding the AG guilty of misdemeanor battery against all four women, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered Hill to begin his suspension May 18. He’ll be automatically reinstated June 17.
Hill was not criminally charged in connection with the women’s accusations.