A former staff attorney for the Indiana Supreme Court said in an Indiana Lawyer op-ed published Wednesday that Attorney General Todd Rokita may have violated three Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct in his public comments about a doctor who provided abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim earlier this year.
Paula Cordoza-Jones, who retired in 2016, wrote that after saying he would investigate Bernard’s licensure and whether she failed to report the procedure properly, as well as describing her as “an abortion activist as a doctor with a history of failing to report,” Rokita should have corrected his misstatements after they were shown to be wrong. “Despite a lack of supporting evidence, and even in the face of evidence refuting his accusations, Rokita did not correct his false statements and expressed his intent to continue the investigation,” Cordoza-Jones wrote.
Specifically, Cordoza-Jones notes Rokita might have violated Rule 3.6 regarding pretrial publicity, which states, “A lawyer who is participating … in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know will be disseminated by means of public communication and will have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding in the matter.”
She also notes Rule 3.8 on the “special responsibilities of a prosecutor,” which states, that prosecutors should, “except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose, refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”
“Even though not a typical ‘prosecutor,”’ Rokita has prosecutorial responsibilities,” Cordoza-Jones wrote.
Continuing, she also states, “Rokita appears to have engaged in conduct that involves dishonesty and misrepresentation and that is prejudicial to the administration of justice” in violation of Rule 8.4 regarding misconduct. “His abuse of public office suggests that he is incapable of fulfilling his professional role as a lawyer.”
Cordoza-Jones then concludes, “Rokita’s apparent multiple violations of the Rules of Professional Conduct while holding the highest legal office in Indiana is a matter of grave concern. As an aggravating circumstance, Rokita appears to have been motivated by a selfish desire to further his political ambitions … Of course, the attorney general should rigorously investigate and enforce licensure matters within his purview. But he must do it within the bounds of his ethical obligations as the chief legal officer of this state. The public reports of his conduct suggest that he has failed in this duty.” — The Indiana Citizen