Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita was reprimanded by the state Supreme Court on Nov. 2 for his nationally televised comments last year criticizing an Indianapolis OB-GYN who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim.
Six weeks after the Indiana Disciplinary Commission charged Rokita with violating professional conduct rules, a 3-2 Supreme Court approved an agreement in which Rokita admitted two of the three allegations.
The charges centered on Rokita’s appearance in July 2022 on Fox News’ “Jesse Watters Primetime,” during which he vowed to investigate how Caitlin Bernard, MD, handled the Ohio girl’s case, and declaring, “We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor, with a history of failing to report.” Under the agreement with the disciplinary commission, Rokita acknowledged his comments violated a rule banning attorneys from making extrajudicial statements that have a substantial likelihood of materially prejudicing an adjudicative proceeding, and a rule prohibiting attorneys from acting in a way that has “no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden a third person.”
Four months after the Fox appearance, Rokita’s office filed charges against Dr. Bernard with the Medical Licensing Board. In May, the board ruled Dr. Bernard violated patient confidentiality rules by discussing the case, issued a reprimand and fined her $3,000, but unanimously rejected Rokita’s request for a finding that she was unfit to practice medicine.
In addition to the reprimand, the Supreme Court ordered Rokita to pay $250 in court costs, as well as the disciplinary commission’s investigation costs, which are not yet determined.
The commission is the disciplinary arm of the Supreme Court. The Court has the final say on any commission recommendations. Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Christopher Goff dissented from the order accepting the agreement, contending that Rokita should have faced harsher punishment because of his position as attorney general and the “scope and breadth of the admitted misconduct.”
In exchange for Rokita’s admission to the two rule violations, the Commission agreed to dismiss a third charged violation. The Court balanced several factors in determining whether to issue a reprimand or a suspension and pointed to Rokita’s “acceptance of responsibility” as a mitigating factor.
Rokita issued a statement hours after the reprimand defending his conduct. He stated it was accurate to describe Dr. Bernard as an “abortion activist,” and blamed “the media, medical establishment and cancel culture” for defending Dr. Bernard “in furtherance of their shared ideological and business interests.”
“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 wrote. “In order to resolve this, I was required to sign an affidavit without any modifications.”
The agreement with the commission says Rokita acknowledged he would be unable to defend against the two misconduct findings in a full hearing.