A former Indiana University provost and law school dean is requesting an investigation into the conduct of Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, accusing him of making “false or baseless” statements regarding a high-profile case involving a 10-year-old girl who came to Indiana seeking an abortion.
Lauren Robel sent a letter to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission asking for an investigation into Rokita’s conduct. During an appearance on Fox News, the attorney general said he was investigating Dr. Caitlin Bernard and accused her of failing in her legal obligations to report the case.
Bernard has been at the center of the national debate on abortion access after the Indianapolis Star reported she’d received a referral from a doctor about a 10-year-old Ohio girl who traveled to Indiana to get an abortion.
The story gained national attention after President Joe Biden mentioned it during a July 8 news conference, leading to further scrutiny from media outlets, with some questioning the story’s veracity.
But local reporting emerged that a 27-year-old man had been charged in connection with the rape of the 10-year-old girl. Furthermore, state records showed Bernard reported the abortion within the required timeframe. IU Health also investigated the matter, concluding that Bernard complied with privacy laws.
In Rokita’s televised interview, he claimed Bernard had a “history of failing to report” and suggested she could face criminal charges. He referred to her as an “abortion activist” and said he was “gathering evidence” that she’d failed to report the abortion as required by state law.
Bernard’s attorney has already sent a cease and desist to Rokita.
Robel, who formerly served as dean of the IU Maurer School of Law, wrote in her letter to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission that Rokita made his claims without evidence to substantiate them.
“He nevertheless recklessly made these claims on national television, with the entirely foreseeable result that Dr. Bernard fears for her safety and has been required to obtain counsel,” Robel wrote.
She went on to write, “What General Rokita did, in essence, was identify a private citizen whose political views he disagrees with and suggest repeatedly, on national television, and on the Attorney General’s official website, that she had broken the law, with no evidence to support those claims.”
Robel said she regretted being compelled to take the action of asking for an investigation. She pointed out, however, that Rokita isn’t merely a politician—he’s the highest-ranking lawyer in Indiana and has a “special responsibility to take care that the rule of law and the standards of the profession are protected, and a special responsibility to protect our citizens, not to launch dangerous, politicized, and factually baseless assaults against them.”
The Disciplinary Commission investigates and prosecutes allegations of professional misconduct. If charges are filed against Rokita—something that has not happened—they would be made public. The Indiana Supreme Court would then decide if misconduct had occurred and if any punishment was necessary.
Though rare, it’s not unprecedented for a sitting attorney general to face disciplinary charges. Rokita’s predecessor, Curtis Hill, had his law license suspended for 30 days for violating professional conduct rules.