Indiana Supreme Court issues reprimand for Attorney General Todd Rokita
State Supreme Court reprimands Attorney General Todd Rokita
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH/AP) — The Indiana Supreme Court issued a public reprimand Thursday for Attorney General Todd Rokita for his public comments regarding the Dr. Caitlin Bernard case.
The reprimand says Rokita violated professional conduct rules in statements he made about the doctor who provided an abortion to a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio in the weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.
Two justices argued for a harsher punishment, believing the discipline to be too lenient based on Rokita’s position as attorney general.
The order reads: “The Court concludes that Respondent violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.6(a) and 4.4(a) by making an extrajudicial statement that had a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding and had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass or burden the physician. For Respondent’s professional misconduct, he is hereby publicly reprimanded. The costs of this proceeding are assessed against Respondent. Pursuant to the parties’ stipulation in their conditional agreement, the Court orders Respondent to pay $250.00 by check made payable and transmitted to the Clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court. The Clerk shall retain those funds in their entirety upon receipt. The parties further stipulate that the Commission’s investigation costs under Admission and Discipline Rule 23(21)(a)(1) remain to be determined. All Justices concur, except Rush, C.J., and Goff, J., who would reject the conditional agreement, believing the discipline to be too lenient based on the Respondent’s position as Attorney General and the scope and breadth of the admitted misconduct.”
Rokita responded to the reprimand with a statement that says in part: “First things first: I deny and was not found to have violated anyone’s confidentiality or any laws. I was not fined. And I will continue as Indiana’s duly elected attorney general.
“Despite the failed attempt to derail our work —which could have disenfranchised nearly 2 million voters, the largest amount in Indiana history for any state office candidate — it all boiled down to a truthful 16-word answer I gave over a year ago during an international media storm caused by an abortionist who put her interests above her patient’s. I received a ‘public reprimand’ for saying that “…we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor— with a history of failing to report.”
Bernard’s lawyer, Kathleen DeLaney, sent a statement late Thursday afternoon. “As part of the settlement agreement, Mr. Rokita admitted to violating two attorney ethics rules by attacking Dr. Bernard on national television. His public statements should reflect that fact and we expect a prompt and sincere apology to Dr. Bernard.”
Rebecca Gibron, chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood division that includes Indiana, said the reprimand was not enough. “We are here for the people of Indiana no matter what,” Gibron said in a written statement. “And we are proud of Dr. Bernard and the many other providers for putting patients first, despite the hostile and dangerous environment that Rokita and anti-abortion extremists in this state have created.”
The initial complaint filed in September also alleged that Rokita violated confidentiality requirements by making statements about an investigation into Bernard prior to filing a complaint with the state’s Medical Licensing Board. That charge was dismissed.
Rokita denied violating confidentiality in a written statement responding to the court’s opinion.
In his statement, Rokita said he signed an affidavit to bring the proceedings to a close and to “save a lot of taxpayer money and distraction.” He also repeated his description of Bernard as an “abortion activist.”
“As I said at the time, my words are factual,” he said. “The IU Health physician who caused the international media spectacle at the expense of her patient’s privacy is by her own actions an outspoken abortion activist.”
It’s not clear whether the opinion chastising Rokita was limited to his claim that Bernard had a “history of failing to report” instances of abuse.
Within weeks of Bernard’s July 2022 interview about providing the abortion, Indiana became the first state to approve abortion restrictions after the U.S. Supreme Court ended constitutional protections.
Bernard was reprimanded by Indiana’s medical licensing board in May, saying she didn’t abide by privacy laws by speaking publicly about the girl’s treatment. Hospital system officials argued against that decision. The medical board rejected allegations that Bernard failed to properly report suspected child abuse.
Rokita separately filed a federal lawsuit against her employer, Indiana University Health, in September, claiming the hospital system violated patient privacy laws when Bernard publicly shared the girl’s story. The lawsuit is still pending.
Gerson Fuentes, 28, who confessed to raping and impregnating the Ohio girl, was sentenced to life in prison in July.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.