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Former IU law school dean calls for Rokita disciplinary investigation

By

Indiana Capital Chronicle

 July 19, 2022

Indiana’s attorney general maintains he did nothing wrong after a former Indiana University provost and law school dean called for a disciplinary investigation into his televised statements about the doctor who oversaw a medication abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.

Former IU Maurer School of Law Dean Lauren Robel alleged that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita made “false or baseless” statements on Fox News about Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Caitlin Bernard, according to a three-page letter sent Friday to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

The letter was first-reported Monday by the Indianapolis Business Journal and Indiana Lawyer.

Rokita said during an interview last week that he was investigating the doctor, accusing her of not filing the proper paperwork after performing the medical procedure.

Filings received through a public records request confirmed the appropriate forms had been filed, however.

Robel’s claims

“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, according to the IBJ.

“General Rokita has suggested no evidence that prompted his investigation into Dr. Bernard other than his political disagreement with her provision of legal abortion services to the child, as evidenced by his repeated references to her on national television as an ‘abortion activist acting as a doctor,’” Robel continued in her letter. “He has produced no evidence to substantiate his claim that Dr. Bernard had a ‘history of not reporting.’”

Rokita’s office said in a statement to the Indiana Capital Chronicle on Monday that Robel’s complaint was “without basis.”

The Republican attorney general’s office added that Rokita is continuing to investigate whether Bernard was “in compliance with Indiana and federal privacy laws.”

“Any attorney or client can file anything they want, even without basis, which is the case here,” Rokita’s office said. “Our office is continuing its investigation into whether Dr. Caitlin Bernard was in compliance with Indiana and federal privacy laws, among other reporting and confidentiality requirements and practices. No enforcement actions have been filed.”

IU Health, Bernard’s employer, conducted an investigation and found she did was compliant with patient privacy laws.

Indiana’s rules for lawyers

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 said it cannot 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.

Not the first time

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.

Bernard filed a terminated pregnancy report for the minor on July 2 after telling the IndyStar about the procedure previously. According to the filing, she performed the medication abortion on June 30.

The child came to Indiana from Ohio because her pregnancy was just beyond Ohio’s 6-week abortion ban. Bernard also filed a secondary document indicating the reason for the abortion was abuse.

An attorney representing the Indianapolis doctor sent a cease-and-desist letter to Rokita on Friday, advising him to stop making false and misleading statements.

The Indiana General Assembly is set to return July 25 for a special session on abortion and tax refunds.

Indiana Capital Chronicle is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Indiana Capital Chronicle maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Niki Kelly for questions: info@indianacapitalchronicle.com.