Like many in Indiana, I have been watching closely as accusations against Attorney General Curtis Hill were first leaked to the media and the subsequent news coverage and investigations into the matter ensued. While I have serious concerns over how those events have unfolded, I have been particularly interested in this story for two reasons: first, as a woman who has worked for many years in a male-dominated field, and second, as someone who considers Curtis Hill a friend.
I have devoted my life to the law, working in the justice system in various roles for more than 47 years now, ranging from a private practice attorney to appellate court judge and back to attorney. In those four decades, I have witnessed a gradual evolution from a male-dominated profession when I began working to the more diverse workforce of today. Being a woman on the front lines of that evolution wasn’t always easy, but it gave me a keen sense for people.
As the first female circuit court judge in the state and second female judge on the court of appeals, I know firsthand the challenges faced by women in the workplace and have seen it all. What’s more, as a judge, I presided over proceedings ranging from traffic violations to felony murder. The bottom line is that I’m not naïve to realities of the world, especially those confronting women, and very little surprises me.
What has surprised me are the accusations made about Curtis Hill’s behavior at the Sine Die party earlier this year and the speed with which the entire matter moved in the media.
I first met Curtis Hill about 12 years ago. I was working in southern Indiana and he was just beginning to make his mark as a prosecutor in northern Indiana. Since legal circles in Indiana are relatively small, our paths crossed regularly both for work and social functions. In our interactions, he has always impressed me with his professionalism and deep respect for the law.
Accusations made against Curtis are contrary to the respectful and thoughtful man I’ve known for so long. Never in my decade-plus of knowing Curtis has he displayed anything even resembling the behavior he is accused of at AJ’s Lounge. I have encountered boorish and obnoxious men in the legal profession, but Curtis Hill is not one of them.
I am heartened that the special prosecutor declined to file charges against Hill and other investigations did not recommend further action against him because of the lack of corroborating evidence. Unfortunately, the court of public opinion is being pushed to reach a different conclusion. It troubles me that a good man can be exonerated by the system yet still be constantly attacked as though he is an inherently bad person by the press. Hill is focused on doing his work as attorney general of Indiana.
I know the challenges professional women have faced in the past and continue to face today. I know, despite the progress that has been made, that there are men who seek to take advantage of women. I also know Curtis Hill. I know he’s a man of integrity and I know the seriousness with which he approaches his job and his life. And I know that the accusations made against him are entirely inconsistent with my experience with him.
This matter has been investigated three times and each time, no further action against Hill has been recommended. The justice system and others have concluded this matter as closed. I agree and look forward to the attorney general’s continued hard work keeping Hoosiers safe.
Linda Chezem has been in the legal profession for 47 years, including 22 years as a trial and appellate court judge. She practices law in Martinsville with Foley, Peden and Wisco. She is a professor emerita at Purdue University in the Department of Youth Development and Agriculture Education and holds an adjunct appointment at the IU School of Medicine, Department of Medicine, with the Indiana Alcohol Research Center.