Hill's Vow to Stay in Office Raises Possibility of Unprecedented Showdown
(BLOOMINGTON, Ind.) - Attorney General Curtis Hill is again vowing not to resign over accusations of groping. Legislators who have urged him to step down will have to decide whether to use state law's nuclear option.
Indiana law allows the impeachment of any state officeholder for "misdemeanors in office." IU Maurer School of Law Professor Charles Geyh, who's consulted on state and federal impeachments of judges, says it isn't clear what that means.
As with the U.S. Constitution's standard of "high crimes and misdemeanors," the word "misdemeanor" doesn't have to mean an indictable crime, but carries its older meaning of any misdeed. But Geyh says while the Federalist Papers make clear the founders intended to cover actions which erode public confidence in the judiciary, there's not a similar background for Indiana's law, passed in 1897. In fact, the meaning is even murkier, because it serves as a catchall for a constitutional impeachment provision describing "crimes, negligence or incapacity."
Geyh says that could create a looser standard for removal from office than the federal version. Where mere carelessness might be a defense in a federal impeachment trial, the Indiana law appears to make negligence a sufficient ground for removal.
And while two presidents, 15 judges, a Cabinet member and a senator have been impeached by the U.S. House, Indiana has never used its impeachment law since the passage of the current Constitution in 1851, leaving no precedent to follow.
Geyh says it's likely but not certain that Indiana courts would rule impeachment is a political question, and leave it to legislators to decide what the law covers.
Indiana's impeachment procedure is similar to the federal version: the House can bring charges by majority vote, with a two-thirds majority of the Senate needed to convict after a trial. But legislators won't reconvene until November, unless Governor Holcomb calls the year's second special session.
Munster Representative Mara Candelaria-Reardon (D) and three unnamed legislative staffers have accused Hill of unwanted sexual touching at a downtown bar on the night the legislature adjourned its regular session in March.
The Indianapolis Star had redacted Candelaria-Reardon's name from a leaked report prepared for legislative leaders after Reardon (D) reported the incident to House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) and Minority Leader Terry Goodin (D-Austin). Now Reardon has put her own name to those charges in an op-ed for the Times of Northwest Indiana.
Reardon says Hill slid his hand down her back and grabbed her rear end, at a gathering following the midnight adjournment of the legislative session in March. She says she had planned to confront Hill one-on-one, but went to Goodin after a staffer told her over lunch a few weeks later Hill had also groped her and other staffers, after Reardon left. She says she "had an obligation to report it to our House leadership, to protect these women and any others from Curtis Hill's deviant conduct."
Governor Holcomb has called on Hill to resign, as have all four top legislative leaders and at least 15 other legislators. Hill has vowed he won't, and is demanding that Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry investigate what he calls "vicious and false" accusations. Indiana's inspector general Lori Torres has opened an investigation at Holcomb's request, but Hill charges that probe can't possibly be fair because the inspector general is appointed by the governor, and Holcomb "has already determined the outcome of the investigation."
Hill charges he's been denied due process and still doesn't know who besides Reardon is accusing him. He calls the investigation "a complete travesty."
Attorney General Curtis Hill (Photo: Curtis Hill for Indiana)