By Liz Shepherd
INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has filed misconduct charges against Attorney General Todd Rokita after he made public statements about an investigation against a physician prior to an administrative complaint being filed.
The disciplinary commission, which is responsible for investigating claims of misconduct against Indiana lawyers, filed the claim on Monday, Sept. 18.
According to the complaint, the investigation began after comments Rokita made on a Fox News television show in July 2022. The comments were about Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indiana physician who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old child from Ohio.
During a televised interview with Jesse Watters, Rokita said evidence against Bernard was being gathered and noted an active investigation.
Aside from disclosing this information on television, Rokita also made additional public statements about the matter.
A letter Rokita sent to Governor Eric Holcomb requesting Holcomb provide the attorney general’s office with records relating to the Bernard investigation was made public by Rokita. He also issued a press release about the investigation and discussed the subject three additional times in September 2022.
Indiana Code 25-1-7-10(a) states “all complaints and information pertaining to the complaints [of a medical professional] shall be held in strict confidence until the attorney general files notice with the board of the attorney general’s intent to prosecute the licensee.”
When Rokita made all of his public statements about Bernard, the attorney general’s office had not yet filed notice with the Indiana Medical Licensing Board of its intent to prosecute Bernard’s license. A complaint was not officially filed against Bernard until Nov. 30, 2022.
The disciplinary commission states Rokita violated the confidentiality requirements of the aforementioned state code by publicly speaking about the investigation against Bernard prior to an administrative complaint being filed.
Court documents also state Rokita caused “irreparable harm to Dr. Bernard’s reputational and professional image” and “burdened the court system and caused additional systems and logistical issues for the Medical Licensing Board to navigate” by breaching confidentiality requirements.
For lawyers, Indiana’s rules of professional conduct state lawyers “shall not make any 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.”
Rokita is charged with three counts of violating the rules of professional conduct.
Adrienne Meiring, the disciplinary commission’s executive director, is requesting Rokita be disciplined as warranted for professional misconduct.
Rokita has publicly responded to the complaint in a press release.
“Hoosiers, in the largest number on record, elected me attorney general because they knew they were getting a passionate fighter who — like them — is beating back the culture of death, grievance and transanity being pushed by radicals in workplaces, schools, media and government,” said Rokita.
“This work certainly includes vindicating vulnerable children for having their privacy rights unlawfully violated — without consent — by healthcare providers to further their political agenda and their ‘bottom line.’ I won’t stop in this and my other work.”
“We will continue defending Indiana’s laws and ensure that licensed medical professionals and other healthcare providers are held accountable when they violate their patients’ privacy and fail to obtain consent.”