Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita has acknowledged his breach of professional conduct rules. The Indiana Supreme Court has issued a public reprimand against him and ordered him to pay $250. This decision came after Rokita’s comments on a television appearance, where he labeled a doctor who performed an abortion as “an abortion activist” with “a history of failing to report.”
The Indiana Supreme Court declared that Rokita’s televised statements were “engaged in attorney misconduct.” At 53, Rokita, a member of the Republican Party, faced criticism for his remarks about Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who had performed an abortion on a 10-year-old rape victim.
“Having evidence and explanation for everything I said, I could have fought over those 16 words, but ending their campaign now will save a lot of taxpayer money and distraction, which is also very important to me,” Rokita said. He chose not to defend himself against the charges, instead opting for a settlement to avoid further expenditure of taxpayer funds and attention.
Dr. Bernard’s attorney, Kathleen DeLaney, expects an apology from Rokita. “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,” DeLaney said.
Rokita’s admission of misconduct pertained to his extrajudicial statements and actions that had no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person. This admission came with the understanding that he could not successfully defend himself against these charges if they were contested.
The case against Rokita was initiated following multiple complaints, including one from Lauren Robel, former dean of Indiana University’s law school. The court’s decision was not unanimous; Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff believed the discipline was too lenient, considering Rokita’s role and the extent of the admitted misconduct.
Rokita remains steadfast in his assertion that his comments were factual, citing Dr. Bernard’s public advocacy against abortion restrictions. Dr. Bernard had spoken out against new Indiana abortion laws in an interview with the Indianapolis Star, which led to her being fined by Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board. However, the board also concluded that she had complied with reporting requirements regarding the young rape victim.
In a related legal action, Rokita has sued Indiana University Health, accusing the hospital system of privacy violations concerning the abortion details and the minor involved. The lawsuit claims the system has created confusion among its workforce about privacy laws, thereby threatening patient confidentiality.
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