Indiana AG Rokita facing multiple disciplinary charges

  • Comments
  • Print
Todd Rokita

Todd Rokita on Monday became Indiana’s second consecutive attorney general brought up on disciplinary charges—this time related to his statements about an Indiana doctor in the summer of 2022.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission filed three charges against Rokita, all related to breaches of confidentiality. It’s up to high court justices to determine whether any misconduct occurred and what, if any, sanction is warranted.

One of the allegations outlined in the disciplinary complaint states that Rokita improperly disclosed on national television last summer that his office was investigating Indianapolis OB-GYN Dr. Caitlin Bernard. Doing so could be deemed a violation of Indiana’s Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits such a disclosure if the investigation is still pending.

At the time of Rokita’s statements, the Bernard investigation was still pending, and a formal complaint against the doctor had not yet been filed with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

Click here for a copy of the complaint filed against Rokita.

The complaint additionally alleges that by publicly referring to Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor—with a history of failing to report,” Rokita broke a professional rule that bars attorneys from using means “that have no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.”

A third count contends that—because Rokita disclosed his office’s investigation into Bernard before making a referral to the Medical Licensing Board—he broke another professional rule that describes any lawyer’s actions that are “prejudicial to the administration of justice” as misconduct.

On Monday morning, Rokita posted a detailed, 11-point response to the commission’s charges via his state website, which he couched as “highlights” of his forthcoming formal response. He notes aspects of the Bernard case that he says don’t require confidentiality, as well as his duty to inform the public of his office’s actions and decisions. He also says he sees the situation as “an opportunity to learn and improve for the next time.”

Rokita said, too, that he “has a duty to keep the public informed of the office’s actions and decisions,” but noted it’s “unclear” if the confidentiality statute applies to the elected attorney general himself, or only to non-elected employees of the office.

“Hoosiers, in the largest number on record, elected me Attorney General because they knew they were getting a passionate fighter who — like them — is beating back the culture of death, grievance and transanity being pushed by radicals in workplaces, schools, media and government,” Rokita said in a separate statement. “This work certainly includes vindicating vulnerable children (our most precious gift) for having their privacy rights unlawfully violated — without consent — by healthcare providers to further their political agenda and their ‘bottom line.’ I won’t stop in this and my other work.”

Rokita’s conduct in question

Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch ruled in December that the Republican attorney general violated the state licensing statute’s confidentiality provision when he disclosed his office was investigating Bernard. He made the public statements on Fox News before he filed a complaint against the doctor with the Medical Licensing Board.

Bernard performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape survivor from Ohio in June 2022. Although she gave few identifying details when she told the Indianapolis Star about it, the case went national.

Rokita told Fox News commentator Jesse Watters last summer that his office was investigating Bernard, the Indiana abortion doctor who brought the case to light nationally. But he provided no details during the appearance.

“And then we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report. So we’re gathering the information,” Rokita said on air. “We’re gathering the evidence as we speak, and we’re going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure. If she failed to report it in Indiana, it’s a crime for–to not report, to intentionally not report.”

That summer, former Indiana University Maurer School of Law Dean Lauren Robel alleged that Rokita made “false or baseless” statements about Bernard. She filed a complaint with the disciplinary commission in July.

Robel further asserted to the disciplinary commission that Rokita did not retract those comments even after they were shown to be false.

“If he can throw the entire weight of his office without consequence to attack Dr. Bernard, he can do so to target any private citizen with whom he disagrees,” Robel wrote in a letter obtained by the Indiana Citizen. “This is the opposite of the rule of law.”

Indiana’s professional conduct for attorneys states that lawyers holding public office assume legal responsibilities “going beyond those of other citizens.” A lawyer’s abuse of public office “can suggest an inability to fulfill the professional role of lawyers.”

The rules instruct lawyers not to “make a false statement of material fact or law,” and instead “be truthful when dealing with others on a client’s behalf.”

Attorneys are additionally required to avoid “misrepresentations,” which can occur if a lawyer “incorporates or affirms a statement of another person that the lawyer knows is false.”

Misrepresentations can also occur when making “partially true but misleading statements or omissions that are the equivalent of affirmative false statements,” according to the attorney guidelines.

Lawyers who “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation” are in violation of the professional conduct rules and subject to discipline.

It has been rumored that numerous other grievances were also filed against Rokita, but none have been confirmed.

A second AG in hot water

In May 2020, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended then-Attorney General Curtis Hill’s law license for 30 days after finding that Hill violated professional conduct rules and committed the criminal act of battery.

The court found that Hill groped four women, including one lawmaker and three legislative staffers, at an Indianapolis bar in March 2018 at a post-session social gathering. Hill adamantly denied the allegations during a four-day disciplinary hearing.

Myra Selby, a former Indiana Supreme Court justice who served as hearing officer in Hill’s case, had recommended a 60-day suspension. The court’s disciplinary commission recommended a two-year suspension.

Hill remained in office during his suspension but was not allowed to participate in legal matters. His chief deputy ran the office.

Hill ran for re-election in 2020, but was defeated at the Republican nominating convention by Rokita, who eventually won after three rounds of votes. Later that year, Rokita defeated former Evansville mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel in the general election.

Rokita is up for re-election in 2024.

What happens next

When someone files a grievance against a lawyer with the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme Court, the lawyer is contacted and is required to respond in writing to the complaint.

After that initial investigation, the commission’s executive director weighs if there is probable lawyer misconduct. If not, the grievance is dismissed and the case is never public. If the director believes there is, then the full disciplinary commission reviews the matter.

The full commission is a citizen board made up of seven lawyers and two non-lawyers. They are appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court.

If the commission believes that the lawyer has engaged in misconduct for which they should be disciplined, it files a complaint with the Clerk of the Supreme Court formally charging the lawyer with misconduct.

That is the point where a case becomes public. Preceding deliberations are not public record.

If the commission and the lawyer can agree to the facts of the case and an appropriate disciplinary sanction, a hearing can be avoided. The agreement is submitted to the Supreme Court for approval. If the Court accepts the agreement, the agreed sanction is imposed by the Supreme Court and the case is over. If not, there is a hearing.

A hearing officer is then appointed by the Supreme Court to hear the evidence. The commission acts as prosecutor in the case and must prove its charges with a higher burden of proof than in a civil case. The hearing officer’s responsibilities are like those of a trial court judge, except that the hearing officer cannot make a final decision in the case.

The hearing officer makes a report on the case to the Supreme Court, which makes a final decision.

Sanctions depend on the seriousness of the case. Possible sanctions include:

  • a private or public reprimand;
  • suspension from practice for a set period of time;
  • suspension from practice with reinstatement only after the lawyer proves fitness; and
  • permanent disbarment.

The vast majority of grievances filed with the commission are dismissed. For instance, 1,270 grievances were filed during the 2022 fiscal year, according to the Indiana Supreme Court’s annual report. But only 16 complaints for disciplinary action were filed by the commission that same year.

The complaints alleged 26 counts of misconduct, and the Court later issued 57 final orders of discipline. Included was the suspension of one attorney for making knowingly false or reckless statements about a judge’s qualifications, according the annual report. Another lawyer was found to have mismanaged his attorney trust account and inadequately supervised a paralegal in one matter, and that he failed to respond timely to a disciplinary complaint in the other.

The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that covers state government, policy and elections.

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

22 thoughts on “Indiana AG Rokita facing multiple disciplinary charges

    1. Also agree! His behavior in this issue has been despicable — as if he has a vendetta against Dr. Bernard. Outrageous and he needs to be out of office!

    1. People believe the lies about trickle down economics, despite 40 years of wealth migrating upward and away from the middle class. People believe the lies that crime will go down when everyone is armed with lethal weapons, despite the evidence this works nowhere in the world. People believe the lies that defunding the tax police is good for everybody. In addition, to make sure voters don’t really have a say, these same Republican politicians have gerrymandered the voting maps to the point where there isn’t even debate in the state house. Do I need to go on?

      At some point I used to believe the old saw, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, but Republican politicians, along with all of the right wing propaganda has proven otherwise.

  1. A case can be made that by publicly referring to Dr. Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” Rokita defamed Dr. Bernard’s professional credentials and integrity.

    Such a comment just begs for a defamation lawsuit against the attorney general.

    1. That statement about Dr. Bernard is (mostly) true. She is a doctor. And she’s an abortion activist. And, for one particular incident, she allowed her abortion activism to supersede her responsibilities as a doctor, as did the doctors in Ohio with whom she coordinated.

      She doesn’t deserve the vendetta that Rokita clearly has for her. And there are few more clear-cut cases where an abortion is justified. But Bernard’s hands are hardly clean. She allowed a little girl to stay with the girl’s illegal immigrant rapist (and complicit mother) while she grandstanded for abortion rights. She received a minor fine and a censure for her ethical lapses which she 100% deserved.

    2. Lauren, “acting as a doctor” is certainly defamatory. And it is completely out of her hands who the girl stayed with afterwards. She is not law enforcement!

    3. Thank you for the complement Brent.

      I am, of course, right as usual, and you are utterly dependent on your selective reporting to develop your skewed understanding of reality. I’m even taking the middle ground, criticizing Rokita where it’s deserved and recognizing that this was a justified abortion.

      But the reality can’t be ignored: Dr. Bernard had to take her lumps because she violated medical ethics in the sequence in which she choose to address the issue. It was first and foremost a criminal consideration before it was a medical (pro-choice) concern.

      If I am “wrong as usual”, then why didn’t Bernard decide to appeal the Indiana Medical Licensing Board decision? https://www(dot)wbaa(dot)org/2023-08-30/dr-caitlin-bernards-case-with-licensing-board-finished-both-sides-decline-appeals

      Randy, Dr. Bernard may not be law enforcement but she certainly knows her responsibility within the constrains of HIPAA regarding a medical condition caused by a criminal act. She and the activist doctors in Ohio decided not to report the rapist (or the complicit mother) until later in the process, giving the rapist further opportunity to continue abusing this little girl.

    4. “You are utterly dependent on your selective reporting to develop your skewed understanding of reality.”


      “Bernard filed the required abortion disclosure, known as a “terminated pregnancy” form, on July 2, two days after she performed the girl’s abortion, according to a copy of the form IndyStar received Thursday from the state health department. State law requires the forms to be filed within three days for patients under age 16.”

      Here’s the reality – Dr. Bernard’s crime, as prosecuted by Todd Rokita, is making Todd Rokita look like a fool. He should be disbarred for not even attempting to research before opening his trap.

      You can’t go on Fox News and claim someone has a history of failing to report when you have no evidence.

      (By the way, you can post links just fine if you do one per post. There’s no need to do this dot nonsense.)

  2. Gosh, I was wrong…the Disciplinary Commission didn’t wait for Rokita to litigate the claim against IU Health. I think we’ll find Mr. Rokita being disciplined…the question is whether he’ll have to resign, or will it just be a public reprimand. Because as many of us remember, a Hancock County judge admitted to driving over to his son’s house while under the influence of narcotics to “oversee” the son’s soon to be ex-wife removing items from the marital home, under the supervision of Greenfield police, admitted to being under the influlcence of narcotics when he verbally accosted a neighbor, and then apparently drove home still under the influence of narcotics, all without any thing more than a public reprimand. Had ANY OTHER CITIZEN admitted to all that conduct, and especially the driving part, while under the influence of narcotics, the good judge Davis would have likely thrown them in jail (unless of course they were an influential Republican).
    So my hopes are raised, but only just a little. Maybe the Indiana Supreme Court has decided Rokita is an embarrasment and needs to go prior to the upcoming election season.

  3. The AG position in Indiana should be appointed by the governor such that we can get AGs who actually make protecting Hoosiers their number 1 priority. Rokita is on a populist attention-seeking crusade at the expense of all of us.

  4. While I think he is just wasting Indiana Taxpayer dollars on culture war issues, here is my prediction. He will get a fine. If he does get a suspension, Curtis Hill has already paved the way for Rokita to keep his job. After he’s fined and or suspended, he will start attacking “deep state” government, because in his mind, Laws don’t apply to Republican politicians, especially ego driven bombastic culture warriors who are out to righteously “own the libs”.

    1. Also +1. Sad, but true: this is deep-red Indiana, where culture warriors get votes and influence. He’ll get off with a wrist slap and then use that as more fuel for his “burn it down” rhetoric. Amazing how these grifters keep getting elected.