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Indiana court sidesteps ruling on suspended attorney general

The Indiana Supreme Court sidestepped giving its opinion Monday on whether the state attorney general can remain in office even while serving a 30-day law license suspension for groping a state legislator and three other women.

Posted: May 19, 2020 9:05 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court sidestepped giving its opinion Monday on whether the state attorney general can remain in office even while serving a 30-day law license suspension for groping a state legislator and three other women.

The lack of court action leaves in legal limbo the question of whether Republican Attorney General Curtis Hill can remain in his elected position as state government’s top lawyer under the suspension that took effect Monday. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, however, signaled no intention that he would try to force Hill from office, despite calling for Hill's resignation nearly two years ago.

State law requires the attorney general to be “duly licensed to practice law in Indiana,” but it doesn’t specify whether the person can continue serving under a temporary suspension.

The Supreme Court, however, refused to consider a request from Holcomb last week for a ruling that would settle that question. The court said Holcomb’s request was outside the scope of the disciplinary case against Hill.

“Moreover, courts generally should not issue advisory opinions ... or decide issues if there is no case or controversy before them,” the order said.

Hill, 59, has denied doing anything wrong at a March 2018 party where the groping occurred, but a unanimous Supreme Court decision last week said the state’s attorney disciplinary commission “proved by clear and convincing evidence that (Hill) committed the criminal act of battery.”

Hill has rebuffed the calls from Holcomb and other state Republican leaders for his resignation and he’s seeking reelection this year.

Holcomb would appoint a new attorney general if Hill was found ineligible to remain in office.

“With the Supreme Court’s decision to suspend the Attorney General for 30 days, my judicial inquiry was to, one, determine if that suspension created a vacancy and, two, if so, what was my constitutional and statutory responsibility to fill that vacancy," Holcomb said in a statement. “With those two questions left unanswered, there is no further action on my part.”

The attorney general’s office said in a one-sentence statement: “Curtis Hill remains the duly-elected Attorney General for the state of Indiana and the work of his office will continue uninterrupted.”

Hill’s political fate could be decided by Republican state convention delegates, who will pick the attorney general nominee this summer. Some Republicans argue nominating Hill puts the GOP’s hold on the office in jeopardy even though Democrats last won a statewide election in 2012.

Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon testified during an October hearing on the groping allegations that Hill, smelling of alcohol and with glassy eyes, was holding a drink in his right hand and put his left hand on her shoulder, then slid his hand down her dress to clench her buttocks. “A squeeze, a firm grasp,” she said.

Three female legislative staffers — ages 23 to 26 at the time — testified Hill inappropriately touched their backs or buttocks and made unwelcomed sexual comments during the party.

Hill last week designated his chief deputy, Aaron Negangard, to oversee the attorney general’s office until his suspension ends June 17. Negangard is the former prosecutor for Dearborn and Ohio counties in southeastern Indiana and joined the attorney general’s office with Hill in early 2017.

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Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 611039

Reported Deaths: 9716
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion844351336
Lake45508685
Allen32891552
Hamilton29546315
St. Joseph27449381
Elkhart24440345
Vanderburgh19513250
Tippecanoe18043140
Johnson15140295
Porter14865169
Hendricks14440248
Madison11009222
Vigo10769181
Clark10731144
Monroe9424113
Delaware9152134
LaPorte9103164
Howard8268144
Kosciusko808983
Warrick676599
Hancock6741104
Bartholomew6523100
Floyd6469110
Wayne6157162
Grant6011116
Dubois556980
Boone554668
Morgan545795
Henry509764
Marshall505384
Cass485264
Dearborn483245
Noble474059
Jackson426747
Shelby419581
Lawrence392980
Clinton374243
Gibson372559
Harrison350945
DeKalb348264
Montgomery346554
Knox335839
Miami323044
Steuben314545
Whitley309726
Wabash304551
Adams302136
Ripley300046
Putnam297850
Huntington293159
Jasper290534
White274143
Daviess271274
Jefferson264738
Decatur248983
Fayette247848
Greene241162
Posey240328
Wells236451
LaGrange229662
Scott225739
Clay223532
Randolph214948
Jennings199336
Sullivan192933
Spencer192422
Washington187523
Fountain184627
Starke175643
Jay168223
Owen166837
Fulton164230
Orange160835
Carroll159115
Rush155818
Perry155229
Vermillion149334
Franklin149033
Tipton133033
Parke13088
Pike118226
Blackford111422
Pulaski97337
Newton91721
Brown88235
Benton86910
Crawford8069
Martin74413
Warren6857
Switzerland6665
Union6287
Ohio4957
Unassigned0376

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