Rokita under investigation by disciplinary commission for statements about Indiana doctor

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Todd Rokita (Photo by Sipa via AP Images)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is under investigation by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission in relation to his televised statements about the doctor who oversaw a medication abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.

Documents first reported by the Indiana Citizen additionally show Rokita’s office hired a Washington, D.C. law firm to help litigate a medical licensing case against Dr. Caitlin Bernard.

The same lawyer is also representing Rokita in his disciplinary case but it is unclear if state funds are paying him.

The proceedings stem from an ongoing legal saga between Rokita and Bernard, an Indianapolis OBGYN.

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.

Rokita’s office did not respond to the Indiana Capital Chronicle’s request for comment about the disciplinary investigation or his outside legal counsel.

Rokita’s outside counsel

Gene Schaerr, managing partner of the Schaerr Jaffe law firm, filed a petition Feb. 2 with the Indiana Supreme Court, requesting to represent Indiana in the case Rokita brought before the medical licensing board against Bernard.

Schaerr also indicated he has filed a similar petition to appear before the disciplinary commission in the grievance against Rokita.

The document is the first to publicly confirm that complaints filed by several Indiana attorneys are being investigated by the disciplinary commission.

Although the petition does not identify the specific reason for the investigation, the citation to the commission’s case references the attorney general’s public comments about Bernard.

Rokita’s office has contracted with the outside counsel since 2019, according to the Indiana Department of Administration — initially on other abortion-related litigation.

The attorney general’s office amended its contract with Schaerr Jaffe in December, dishing out an additional $100,000 to the law firm for additional services related to Bernard’s case.

Indiana’s rules for lawyers

Last 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.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission previously told the Indiana Capital Chronicle it could not confirm or deny if a complaint has been filed against Rokita — who is currently in good standing — unless it decides to file formal disciplinary charges against him.

Still, most of the complaints filed with the disciplinary commission do not result in any action. During the 2022 fiscal year, the commission received 1,270 complaints, according to the Indiana Supreme Court’s annual report. Of those, 997 were dismissed. Another 273 were investigated, 72 of those were also dismissed after review.

The commission previously investigated Rokita’s predecessor, former Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill, following allegations that Hill groped four women during a party at an Indianapolis bar.

Although the commission recommended that Hill’s law license be suspended for two years, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended Hill’s law license for just 30 days. Hill continues to maintain no wrongdoing.

Rokita-Bernard saga

Bernard previously sued to stop Rokita’s office from obtaining certain patient records related to her care for the 10-year-old, who sought an abortion in Indiana after her pregnancy progressed beyond the 6-week cutoff for in Ohio. 

Bernard’s legal team voluntarily dismissed the case after it transitioned to an administrative licensing action before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, scheduled to be heard later this month. The court officially dismissed the case Nov. 12.

Rokita filed to reopen it Jan. 9 to refute the superior court judge’s “erroneous finding” that he violated state confidentiality laws. The Schaerr Jaffe firm is assisting in those efforts, documents show.

Indiana’s General Assembly passed a near-total abortion ban in a special legislation session over the summer – with proponents citing the 10-year-old’s case as a reason to include exemptions for rape and incest.

But two separate judges granted injunctions temporarily blocking the ban. The Indiana Supreme Court elected to hear the case themselves in January. It’s not clear when the justices will make their ruling, however.

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

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14 thoughts on “Rokita under investigation by disciplinary commission for statements about Indiana doctor

  1. We’ll find out if the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has the integrity to rule on the facts of the complaint against the state’s Republican attorney general, or if bends to the will of the state’s right-wing idealogical winds.

    The article doesn’t describe how the commission is structured or what its procedures are. So we are left in the dark about what kind of intrigue – if any – may tinge the outcome.

    1. She coordinated with docs in Ohio to get the little girl an abortion, deciding that was a greater priority than reporting the rape to the police, or that the hideous mother of this girl was comfortable with the illegal immigrant raping her daughter all along.

      Dr. Bernard saw a chance to grandstand about her real passion–abortion–and waited until a strategic moment to tell the press.

      Then Rokita saw a chance to grand stand about his real passion–anti-abortion–and do more or less the same thing.

      They’re both sleazebags, but if you’re a passive consumer of our laughable joke of a newsmedia, they’d have you believe Dr. Bernard is being persecuted. She violated her own profession’s code of ethics so she could harness her personal code of ethics, and the newsmedia, predictably, is taking her side.

      Glad she’s out of Indiana. Wish we could do the same to Rokita but people keep electing him.

    2. None of that is true, Lauren.

      Rokita is an elected official and held to a higher standard, one that he broke in his rush to head onto Fox News to resurrect his political career. If he wants to resign and/or give up his law license, he can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and can slop around in the mud with an abortion doctor.

      Until then, the actual rule of law matters. Because all he’s managed do do is make an abortion doctor a sympathetic figure. If you told me he was a Democratic operative trying to advance Democratic causes by doing a bad job as a Republican, it would be more believable then … the idea he’s actually trying to accomplish Republican goals. He wins in court as much as Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys win Super Bowls.

  2. Leave it to the people most in thrall with the legacy media to step up and defend a crooked doctor.

    Before Rokita rushed his head to Fox News, Bernard had already made her clandestine machinations with doctors in Ohio to get this little girl an abortion before she ever reported the obvious fact that a 10-year-old cannot be pregnant except through rape. As I said weeks ago, the doctors in Ohio could have used this to push for less draconian laws in the state. She had to withdraw her suit and she basically fled Indiana. Does Rokita have a vendetta against her because he’s an anti-abortion ideologue? Sure, but she was a pro-abortion ideologue who let her personal agenda cloud her judgment. No doubt she thinks she’s some sort of Harriet Tubman, all while prioritizing abortion over the criminal act of rape that led to the need for an abortion (and, yes, this girl most certainly had a compelling case for an abortion).

    Utterly predictable that you’d find Bernard “sympathetic”. Do you have a SINGLE opinion that differs from the legacy media Joe?

    Dr. Caitlin Bernard is scum. Needless to say, the media supports her too. But they’re scum as well. She’ll be perfect for Chicagoland.

    1. You yammer on about legacy media more than you yammered on about Portland. You may as well tell me what brand of coffee you prefer. I don’t know where you get your information, but it’s lacking in substance.

      She withdrew her suit because Rokita decided to file disciplinary charges, thereby moving the matter from the courts to going after her license. If the medical licensing board finds there was no reason to involve Indiana police with a crime that took place in Ohio and had been previously reported to Ohio police, which is the crux of Rokita’s case, Rokita will have lost again. How much you want to bet on Todd, given his track record of bad lawyering?

      Rokita is currently using taxpayer dollars to try to expunge the simultaneous finding in a court of law that he broke the law because the facts hurt his feelings, and it also opened him up to sanctions for being bad at his job. He’s also continuing to use taxpayer dollars to go on a fishing expedition because surely he can find something to justify the flailing around he’s been doing.

      Next you will try to tell me that they could have gotten the abortion in Ohio, despite the legislative finding that no, actually, she couldn’t have… and the quotes from the guy who wrote the law that, no, he wrote the law in that way for that reason, because he wants raped 10 year olds to have babies because maybe some day they will see the benefit.

      Which is why Indiana’s law has rape and incest provisions that are clearly not in Ohio’s law … provisions that Indiana Right to Life fought because they weren’t hardcore enough.

      Yes, abortion still bad. Even better would be to increase the efforts to reduce the number of unplanned pregnancies, which would reduce the number of people seeking abortions. Indiana should be doing more on this front but there are far too many legislators who think sex is only for procreation and … their interest in being pro-life ends when the baby is born. So, it’s tough sleddding.

      You used to be a lot better at this. Maybe all that independent basement media and it’s truth-iness isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    2. Lauren, the Indiana physician broke no Indiana laws because abortion was not (and still is not, pending judicial review) illegal.

      Additionally, because the young girl in Ohio (or her parents, for that matter) broke no laws in their state by leaving Ohio and coming to Indiana for care, there was no need for Ohio authorities to be notified by any of the parties.

      These are the stark facts. They are the only facts that matter.

      Your weak attempt to confuse facts with opinions, and then join in the conversation here, reminds me that “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

  3. Instead of all of the ideological comments about abortion and who’s the bigger sleaze bag, why is there no outrage over the expenditures at the taxpayer expense to hire an out of state lawyer to prosecute an administrative professional licensing case? If the AG’s office cannot handle its work then perhaps the sitting AG is not fit to hold the position.

    1. How many are aware that Rokita recently signed onto a letter by the attorney general of Missouri warning Walgreens and CVS not to mail “Plan B” morning-after pills because doing so is both “dangerous” and “potentially illegal.”

      Never mind that the FDA has issued guidance to pharmacies that, under federal law, using the mail to make such FDA-approved medication available is NOT illegal.

      Further evidence that Rokita is not following the law in the administration of his office.

  4. When you have a Lauren B to tango with Joe B it allows me to just keep grabbing more popcorn.

    But, could Lauren B and Joe B live in the same household? Or even the same person?

    I digress, just the old Finkle is Einhorn, Einhorn is Finkle premise. Ha!

    1. J C B, I don’t understand what Foghorn Leghorn has to do with it. Though, come to think of it, Todd Rokita does seem like the same type of blowhard as that cartoon rooster.

      Also, quite definitely not the same person. Better chance of you and Bob P. being the same person.

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