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This commentary was originally published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, a Free Press Indiana partner.

By Michael Leppert

Indiana Capital Chronicle

April 16, 2024

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita last week solicited the public to sue the Indiana Department of Health. I know that sounds odd, and it should sound that way, because the IDOH is Rokita’s client.

When an agency is sued, it’s customary for the attorney general to provide legal resources for its defense. Apparently not anymore. Not only should we expect Rokita to refuse to defend the IDOH if it gets sued over its handling of terminated pregnancy reports, but the AG is actively encouraging someone to file the suit. Again, against his own client.

Words can’t describe how unlawyerly that is. It’s a foundational violation of his oath.

He accused the agency and Indiana Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, of “collusion” for keeping terminated pregnancy reports, or TPRs, from public view. It appears that Rokita has appointed himself the abortion czar of the state and wants to use these medical records in his search for violators of the state’s new ban. This isn’t the reason the data is collected, and the data is viewed by the agency and Britt as medical records protected by the provider-patient relationship.

Ironically, Rokita manipulated the Medical Licensing Board into sanctioning Dr. Caitlin Bernard for disclosing information about a 10-year-old rape victim who needed an abortion in 2022. He was mad she shared such a vivid example of how bans are bad. Then he worked overtime to find an angle, and importantly, a politically friendly venue, to settle his score with her.

His legal claim: Dr. Bernard shared too much information. Now, Rokita wants to share more.

This time, his angle is to get someone to sue the state, again, his client, so that a judge can instruct the agency to change its policies. And he’s not waiting for the public to come up with that idea on its own. He’s overtly asking for someone, anyone, to get the ball rolling. On Thursday, during a Facebook Live event, he presented his non-binding opinion on the matter, saying: “You have a right to sue the state of Indiana. That’s the bottom line. You have a right to these documents, and no unelected bureaucrat can tell you otherwise.”

Not just abortion

Aah, there it is! Because Rokita is elected to something, he seems to believe that empowers him to do, well, apparently anything. This broad, magical authority he believes he has, isn’t new either.

The “Eyes on Education” witch hunt, excuse me, tip line, was announced in February. Remember that one?

As detailed by WFYI, Rokita’s office set up a portal that aims to compile and display complaints about “potentially inappropriate” material in schools that are “real examples of socialist indoctrination from classrooms across the state,” along with the purported material. The goal here was to fight the evil practice of “indoctrination” that the AG wants Hoosiers to believe is going on in our schools. Examples he touts on his website include a gender support plan, a race and gender based college fair, and my favorite, a presentation instructing kids on how to become “emotionally independent of parents.”

Like the soliciting of complaints about TPRs, what the AG is doing in this area is from the same playbook. He’s trying to create discord, animosity and strife in hopes of exercising some authority that his office actually does possess. It’s a strategy for him to heroically save the citizenry from a government that he and his followers believe has run amok.

Again though, that government is his client.

This is the fundamental problem with Rokita’s entire approach to his current job. Protocol, decorum and precedent over the years would instruct any attorney general to avoid doing these things. Not until someone occupies the office with absolute disregard for historic demeanor does the citizenry begin to fully understand how the office can be weaponized. That too is ironic.

Rokita has reduced the position to a tribunal of mean tweets, a forum for Festivus, if you will, that can be used to sue or harass anyone, or anything, at any time. Even his own client. He is the second consecutive Republican elected to the office whose law license has been jeopardized for being such a horrible lawyer. He needs to keep that license, if he wants to keep “owning” his enemies.

Eventually, the Indiana General Assembly is going to have to define the job better. Rokita, and his immediate predecessor, Curtis Hill, have made a mockery of the position that reduces it to nothing more than a political noise machine.

For generations, the Indiana Attorney General had been a trusted public servant. That trust has been taken advantage of twice in a row now. Hoosiers should defend itself from the trend.


Michael Leppert is an author, educator and a communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com.

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.

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