Olivia Coviington for www.theindianalawyer.com
The formal attorney discipline hearing against Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill will likely be held in late October.
Attorneys representing Hill and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission gathered Wednesday for a pre-hearing conference and tentatively scheduled the formal hearing to be held during the week of either Oct. 21 or 28.
The hearing will relate to charges that Hill violated Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct 8.4(b) and (d) and Admission and Discipline Rule 22 when he allegedly groped Democratic Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon and three legislative staffers at a party in March 2018.
Hill has denied the allegations, and a special prosecutor and the Indiana inspector general cleared him of criminal or ethical wrongdoing. Even so, the Disciplinary Commission filed the ethics charges in March 2019, and the Indiana Supreme Court appointed former Justice Myra Selby as the hearing officer who will preside over the case.
Hill’s four alleged victims — including House Democratic aide Samantha Lozano, Senate Democratic communications director Gabrielle McLemore and Senate Republican aide Niki DaSilva — could be among the 18 to 25 witnesses who will likely be called at the hearing, which lawyers for both sides expect to last five days. However, Indianapolis criminal defense attorney Jim Voyles, one of three attorneys representing Hill in the disciplinary matter, declined to say whether he would ask any lawmakers to testify, and no attorneys specifically said who those witnesses might be.
The identities of some of the witnesses are likely not yet known, as both Voyles and commission attorney Seth Pruden said they have not yet seen the written statements investigators collected as part of the special prosecutor and inspector general’s investigations. The IG’s report said more than 50 people were interviewed.
Voyles said he intends to obtain the written statements via a third-party discovery request. Pruden said both parties have already tendered interrogatories and production requests, and Hill’s office has already provided the commission with some discovery.
Selby said the discovery cut-off date will likely be 30 to 45 days before the hearing. Witness and exhibit lists will be due Sept. 6, while the final pre-hearing conference is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 16.
The main question that will determine when the hearing will be held is its location. Selby said she will look into three options – the Supreme Court courtroom, a courtroom in the City-County Building in downtown Indianapolis or the Supreme Court conference room in the Statehouse – and whichever location has availability during the week of Oct. 21 or 28 will be chosen.
The attorneys said they’d like to avoid having the hearing in the Supreme Court conference room, because the acoustics in the room can make it difficult to hear. Wednesday’s conference was held in the conference room.
Selby also said the hearing’s location will be dependent upon logistical issues, particularly witness sequestration. Other considerations include security and whether a location is available for the five consecutive days the hearing is expected to last.
Wednesday’s pre-hearing conference was procedural, and no new information about the disciplinary case came out. The former justice was treated as a presiding judge, with all parties rising when she walked in and out of the room and referring to her as “the court.”
In disciplinary hearings, the hearing officer or panel acts as the trial court, handling matters such as pre-trial discovery and issuing findings of fact and conclusions of law, which are submitted to the Supreme Court. As a justice, Selby would have been involved in disciplining attorneys during her time on the high court bench.
The conference was open to the public on Selby’s order. She decided to allow press and members of the public despite Hill’s request that it be closed. Hill’s team argued that opening the conference to the public would be a distraction, but the commission said court rules required public access. Pruden asked Selby if the Oct. 16 pre-hearing conference would similarly be open to the public or would be conducted among the parties on the phone. Selby did not provide an answer, but said she would do so in the future.
Another of Hill’s attorneys, Donald Lundberg, the former head of the Disciplinary Commission, attended the conference by phone. His third attorney, Jennifer Lukemeyer, a name partner at Voyles’ firm, did not attend, nor did Hill himself.
In addition to Pruden, the commission is being represented by staff attorney Angie Ordway.
The case is In the Matter of: Curtis T. Hill, Jr., 19S-DI-156.