A judge has dismissed a federal lawsuit filed in June by a state lawmaker and three legislative staffers who accused Attorney General Curtis Hill of drunkenly groping them during at a party to mark the end of the 2018 legislative session.
In her Tuesday ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson called Hill’s actions “disgraceful and reprehensible conduct” but determined the nature of the acts did not meet the legal standard of a violation of federal law.
The ruling in part reads:
“There is no doubt that the allegations as to Attorney General Hill’s actions toward Plaintiffs at the Sine Die Celebration, which the Court must accept as true at this stage of the litigation, describe disgraceful and reprehensible conduct. 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. With respect to Plaintiffs’ 37 allegations about their workplace environment, they may be legally cognizable. However, Plaintiffs may only bring Title VII claims against the governmental entity that employs them, not the State of Indiana.”
The ruling also said that if the accusers wanted to file Title VII claims — about their workplace environment — they would need to do so by March 27. The women are Gabrielle Brock, a Senate Democratic staff member; Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon (D-Munster); Democratic House staffer Samantha Lozano; and Niki DaSilva, a former Republican Senate aide.
The lawyers of Attorney General Curtis Hill’s accusers on Monday afternoon said, “We are currently reviewing the ruling and weighing our next steps. We are confident our clients’ case will proceed and their claims will be heard.”
Jim Voyles, attorney for Curtis Hill, declined comment on the ruling.
The suit came after a special prosecutor declined to pursue criminal charges against Hill.
A hearing officer in February recommended that the Indiana Supreme Court suspend Hill’s law license for 60 days. In a document filed in the case, the hearing officer’s conclusions said, “Respondent’s conduct was offensive, invasive, damaging and embarrassing to Brock, Reardon, Lozano and DaSilva. As Attorney General, he used his state office staff and others to engage in public campaign to defend himself and intimidate the complainants. Based on all of the foregoing, the Hearing Officer recommends sanction of sixty (60) day suspension without automatic reinstatement.”
According to the Indiana Supreme Court filing, parties involved in the case had 30 days to file responses to the hearing officer’s recommendation and, if that happens, a final ruling could be delayed for weeks as parties reply to those responses.
Hill took office in 2017. He announced in November that he will seek re-election this year. Voters do not select party candidates for attorney general in primary elections; that selection happens later in state conventions of the political parties.
Also on Monday, the Indiana House voted 83-9 Monday in favor of a proposal that would prohibit anyone whose law license is suspended for at least 30 days from serving as attorney general.