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Violation of rules

Posted by Johnson & Johnson, LLP | Nov 04, 2019 | 0 Comments

Does Katie Hill have legal recourse?

Former congresswomen Katie Hill was one of the leading lights of a powerful class of incoming freshmen in 2018. She was a 32-year-old Democrat woman who swung a longtime Republican seat held here in California. She was seen with powerful senior congress members like Nancy Pelosi and got plenty of airtime to speak on a variety of issues.

This was all derailed when she told her husband she was leaving him. The couple filed for divorce in July, but he then sold so-called “revenge porn” photos of his estranged wife. It was part of a salacious story written by a Republican operative and published in October about a consensual three-way affair between Hill, her husband and a female member of the congresswomen's staff. There was also a nude photo of Hill holding a well-used marijuana bong from just before her election and the legalization of recreational use of marijuana in California.

Ten days after the publication of the photos and story, she voted for President Trump's impeachment and announced her resignation:

“I'm leaving,” Hill said, “but we have men who have been credibly accused of intentional acts of sexual violence and remain in boardrooms, on the Supreme Court, in this very body and, worst of all, in the Oval Office.”

Violation of rules

The issues of the embarrassing and scandalous photos by an abusive husband are a separate issue from Hill's violation of congressional rules. Some would say it is ironic that Congress's freshly drafted rules regarding relationships between elected members and their staff would be a young woman. In this case, the House Ethics Committee investigated the relationships with the female staffer as well as Hill's legislative director – she acknowledged the affair with a female staffer but denied involvement with the male aide.

Other factors in play

Hill and her supporters claim there are other circumstances at work here as well:

  1. The husband who provided scandalous photos that ended a promising political career.
  2. The far-right media published this story with the intent of causing damage and amplifying misogyny.
  3. A society that gleefully cheered Hill's fall from a powerful young congresswoman to outcast.
  4. This scandal leaves her an ongoing target for professional and physical harm.

Publishing nonconsensual photos against the law

The circumstances involved in this case involve a wider range of issues than revenge porn. Nonetheless, revenge porn is nonconsensual pornography that is illegal under California Law because the unauthorized photos were distributed with the intent to cause harm. While Hill is a public figure who does not enjoy all the same protections as a private citizen, some believe this is another form of high-tech harassment and should be treated as such.

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