Judge dismisses women’s lawsuit accusing Curtis Hill of sexual harassment

Editor’s note: This story was updated Monday and will be updated Tuesday.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by four women who say Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill groped them during a legislative party in 2018.

Indiana Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said in part that because the women — a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers — didn’t work for Hill, they can’t sue the state of Indiana under federal laws meant to prevent workplace discrimination and retaliation. She wrote that the women could only bring claims against the governmental entity that employed them, which was not the Attorney General’s Office.

Magnus-Stinson dismissed several federal claims related to sexual harassment and retaliation and declined to accept jurisdiction over state law claims for battery, defamation and false light invasion of privacy. She said the latter claims could be refiled in state court.

The allegations “describe disgraceful and reprehensible conduct,” Magnus-Stinson wrote. “But the highly offensive nature of the alleged acts does not meet the legal standard necessary to establish a violation of any federal law or the Constitution of the United States by Attorney General Curtis Hill.”

The women — state Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster, and three legislative staffers, Gabrielle McLemore Brock, Niki DaSilva and Samantha Lozano — filed the lawsuit last June. They say Hill touched their backs or buttocks during a party at an Indianapolis bar after the Legislature adjourned for the year in March 2018.

Brock and Lozano were Democratic staffers at the time of the incident; DaSilva was a legislative assistant for the Indiana Senate Republican Caucus. That made the women part of the legislative branch of government — and none of them employees of Hill, who is a separately elected part of the state’s administrative branch.

Brock and DaSilva have since left their positions with the Indiana General Assembly.

Hill has denied wrongdoing and rebuffed calls from Republican leaders to resign. A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against Hill, and a state inspector general’s investigation found no wrongdoing.

But Hill is facing the suspension of his law license. A hearing officer presiding his discipline case has recommended that the Indiana Supreme Court require Hill to serve a two-month suspension without automatic reinstatement for violations of two professional conduct rules related to the allegations against him.

The dismissal of the lawsuit comes the same day the Indiana House adopted an amendment that could potentially remove Hill from office.

Under the amendment, a lawyer who has been disbarred or suspended for 30 days or more could not serve as AG. If the Supreme Court accepts Selby’s discipline recommendation, that language would require Hill to resign, or could force him to end his reelection campaign.

The dismissal order was published in the case of Niki DaSilva, et al. v. State of Indiana and Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 1:19-cv-2453.

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