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INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will be suspended from practicing law for 30 days for violating the standards of professional conduct.

The Indiana Supreme Court released its opinion Monday, admonishing Hill for his conduct during a party in 2018 in which he’s accused of inappropriately touching several women during a party marking the end of the legislative session. Hill has denied the allegations.

Hill’s suspension begins on May 18, the court said. He will be automatically reinstated after serving the suspension.

From the court’s ruling:

For Respondent’s professional misconduct, the Court suspends Respondent from the practice of law in this state for a period of 30 days, beginning May 18, 2020. Respondent shall not undertake any new legal matters between service of this opinion and the effective date of the suspension, and Respondent shall fulfill all the duties of a suspended attorney under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(26). At the conclusion of the period of suspension, provided there are no other suspensions then in effect, Respondent shall be automatically reinstated to the practice of law, subject to the conditions of Admission and Discipline Rule 23(18)(a). The costs of this proceeding are assessed against Respondent, and the hearing officer appointed in this case is discharged with the Court’s appreciation.

The hearing officer in the disciplinary hearing of Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill had recommended a 60-day suspension of Hill’s law license without automatic reinstatement.

The case has dragged on for more than two years. The party happened in March 2018. Hill is accused of inappropriately touching four women during the legislative party at AJ’s Lounge in downtown Indianapolis.

Earlier this year, Hearing Officer Myra Selby called Hill’s conduct “offensive, invasive and damaging” to the women named in the complaint.

A special prosecutor declined to file criminal charges against Hill. However, the disciplinary commission launched its own hearing.

In Monday’s ruling, the court had harsh words for how the commission and Hill conducted themselves during the case. The court wrote that the commission was “hyperbolic” in its description of Hill’s actions but said Hill and his representation devoted far too much time in their briefing to attacking the commission and questioning its integrity and motives.

From the opinion:

At the outset, we are compelled to note our strong disapproval and extreme disappointment with respect to the tenor of the parties’ briefs in this case. The Commission repeatedly refers to Respondent in hyperbolic terms of sexual predation, and the Commission—entirely without support—accuses Respondent of having committed perjury at the final hearing simply because the hearing officer, in endeavoring to reconcile all the testimony (including Respondent’s), found that Respondent’s conduct amounted to battery. Respondent for his part alternately describes the Commission using terms such as “imperialist,” “coddling,” “dismissive,” and “arrogant,” and Respondent devotes far too much of his briefing to entirely unfounded attacks on the Commission’s motives and integrity. There are many legitimate legal arguments to be made in this case, which makes the parties’ inappropriate ad hominem attacks on one another a particularly frustrating distraction. We expect counsel to behave better in future cases.

Hill said he accepted the court’s decision with “humility and respect.” He said his chief deputy, Aaron Negangard, will run the office during his suspension.

“I accept with humility and respect the Indiana Supreme Court’s ruling of a 30-day suspension of my license with automatic reinstatement.

“I have directed that beginning Monday, May 18, Chief Deputy Aaron Negangard will assume responsibility for the legal operations of this office during the temporary suspension of my license until it is reinstated on Wednesday, June 17.

“I offer my deepest gratitude to my family, friends and the entire staff of the Office of the Attorney General. My staff has worked tirelessly and without interruption and will continue to do so on behalf of all Hoosiers.”

Governor Eric Holcomb said he was exploring his option to appoint a temporary AG during the suspension and stood by his earlier call for Hill to resign.

“There’s no good news for anyone and everyone that’s involved in this specific case,” said the governor, “but suffice it to say, my position, my personal position, has not changed since I reviewed the facts myself going on about two years ago.”

Indiana Democratic Party Executive Director Lauren Ganapini said, “Republicans are responsible for Curtis hill and his conduct. They could have used legislative levers to punish him and they chose not to.”

Decatur County Prosecutor Nate Harter is running against Hill and seeking the Republican Party’s nomination at its convention in Indianapolis next month.

“The Supreme Court today validated my concerns about Attorney General Hill’s tenure in office. I am running because we need to have a republican retain that office for Hoosiers.”

GOP State Chairman Kyle Hupfer said, “The Indiana Supreme Court unanimously confirmed that Curtis Hill committed battery against four female victims. Hoosiers would be best served by having a new Attorney General. I have faith in our delegates.”

Dr. Laura Wilson, Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Indianapolis, said, “Voters tend to have short term memories but being just a couple months away from the election, its going to be up to him to reframe the conversation in time to attract voters who will focus on this and sell them on other good qualities he has and why they should vote for him despite this thirty day suspension.”