Plaintiffs push for summary judgment in Hill suspension dilemma

After filing a lawsuit challenging Curtis Hill’s ability to remain Indiana Attorney General while he serves a license suspension, four Marion County plaintiffs filed a motion Friday for summary judgment on their claim that the office is vacant and the governor can name a replacement.

Hill’s license to practice law was suspended for 30 days following accusations that he was intoxicated and inappropriately touched a state representative and three legislative staffers at a party in March 2018. The suspension ends June 17, at which time Hill will have his license automatically reinstated.

In James Perron, Kathy Perron, Julia Vaughn and John Windle v. Curtis T. Hill, Jr., et al., 49D07-2005-PL-016774, the plaintiffs are asking the Marion Superior Court to rule before Hill’s suspension ends.

“Following (Indiana) Supreme Court precedent, this Court should declare the Office of Indiana Attorney General to be vacant so the Governor may fulfill the mandate of Art. 5, Sec. 18 of the Indiana Constitution and appoint Hill’s successor,” the memorandum in support of the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment says. “Because Hill’s suspension will end on June 17, 2020, it is imperative that this court decide this case expeditiously based on the undisputed facts before it.”

Also Friday, Marion Superior Judge Marc Rothenberg signed an order of recusal. If the parties do not agree upon a judge within seven days, the Marion County clerk will randomly reassign the case.

When the Supreme Court issued its order suspending Hill’s license, the Attorney General immediately announced that his chief deputy, Aaron Negangard, would oversee the legal functions of the Office of the Attorney General. However, Gov. Eric Holcomb filed a petition asking the five justices of the Indiana Supreme Court to clarify who has the authority to appoint in this situation.

In response to the governor’s petition, Hill’s attorney Donald Lundberg asserted his client is still licensed and meets the statutory requirement that he must be licensed to practice law to be the attorney general.

The Supreme Court denied the petition. 

Now the four Marion County residents – James Perron, Kathy Perron, Julia Vaughn and John Windle – are turning to the trial court. They argue that under precedent and the Indiana Constitution, the Attorney General’s office became vacant when Hill was suspended and only Holcomb can name the replacement.

“There is no statute authorizing the Attorney General to delegate to another person the duties and responsibilities of the office of Indiana Attorney General while the elected Attorney General has been suspended from the practice of law for disciplinary reasons,” the motion says.

Attorney William Groth of Macey Swanson LLP is representing the plaintiffs.

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