INDIANAPOLIS — Attorney General Curtis Hill is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit by a lawmaker and three legislative staff members on the grounds that there were no civil rights violations.
The brief filed July 11 says that Hill’s behavior at a bar at the end of the 2018 legislative session does not rise to the kind of behavior that would shock the conscience of a sitting judge, which is required for the case to proceed.
“On the contrary,” Hill’s lawyers wrote, “if the plaintiff’s allegations are given credence, the conduct is at worst the type of behavior which can be exhibited by patrons at a crowded bar late at night.”
The four women — Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, D-Munster; Niki DaSilva, a legislative assistant for Indiana Senate Republicans; Samantha Lozano, a legislative assistant for Indiana House Democrats; and Gabrielle McLemore, communications director for Indiana Senate Democrats —accuse Hill of drunkenly groping them at the end of session gathering.
McLemore said he rubbed her back, making her uncomfortable and embarrassed. Lozano said he put his arm around her and pulled her closer to him. Reardon said he put his hand on her back and “grabbed or touched her buttocks." DiSilva said Hill told her to “show some skin” for a drink and moved his hand down her back. When she went to stop him, he forcibly moved both of their hands to her buttocks.
The women are suing on the grounds of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, battery, invasion of privacy and defamation.
Through his lawyers, Hill is saying in essence that even if what the women are saying is true, these allegations are not enough to justify a federal lawsuit.
“Their efforts to reframe a single state law claim into a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment flunks,” the lawyers wrote. “And, because the constitutional claims flunk, there is no subject matter jurisdiction.”
The document also states that nothing that happened at the bar reflects on Hill’s performance as attorney general because there was not a “misuse of power,” but instead the actions of a partygoer, which were normal activities in a bar late at night.
“His conduct may have been ‘rude’ and ‘offensive,’ but it was not enabled by his governmental position,” Hill’s attorneys also wrote.
In addition to the allegations against Hill, the women’s lawsuit makes the point that the state’s policies are not strong enough to effectively protect employees against sexual harassment. The General Assembly passed a sexual harassment policy in January, but the lawsuit says it does not provide employees with enough protection.
The women are seeking compensatory and punitive damages against Hill and the state. They are also asking the court to order the state to improve the policies and procedures for the prevention and reporting of sexual harassment and retaliation.
In March, the Indiana Supreme Court disciplinary commission filed a complaint against Hill accusing him of committing both felony-level and misdemeanor battery. A hearing on the disciplinary charges will be held in October where Hill faces the potential to lose his license, which could cost him his position as attorney general.
Haley Carney is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.