Former IU Law School Dean Seeks Disciplinary Investigation of Rokita – Inside Indiana Business

Lauren Robel, former IU Provost and Dean of Maurer Law School. (courtesy of IU)

A former Indiana University provost and law school dean is seeking a disciplinary investigation into Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita, alleging he made false or baseless statements on Fox News regarding an Indiana doctor who performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim.

Lauren Robel, who served as dean of the IU Maurer School of Law from 2003 to 2011, sent a three-page letter Friday to the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Panel asking it to review Rokita’s recent statement according to which he was investigating the doctor, Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis obstetrician-gynecologist, for possibly failing to report the abortion to state health officials as required by law or to meet other legal obligations.

“General Rokita has not suggested any evidence that prompted his investigation of Dr. Bernard other than her political disagreement with her provision of legal abortion services to the child, as evidenced by his repeated references to her on national television. as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor,” Robel wrote in her letter. “He produced no evidence to support his assertion that Dr Bernard had ‘a history of non-reporting’.”

Records show Bernard reported the abortion to the Indiana Department of Health.

On Monday, Rokita’s office insisted in a written statement that Robel’s complaint was “without merit” and said the attorney general was continuing to investigate whether Bernard was “in compliance with the laws of the Indiana and Federal Privacy Acts”.

Robel’s letter says Rokita failed in his responsibility as the state’s highest-ranking attorney to refrain from making “false or baseless statements” about law or fact.

“If he can throw the full weight of his office inconsequentially to attack Dr. Bernard, he can do so to target any private citizen he disagrees with,” Robel wrote.

When reached by phone Monday, Robel said she was compelled to act because she felt the state attorney general had to abide by the same rules as all Indiana attorneys.

“Frankly, I think he should be held to the highest standard of conduct, but at a minimum he has to do what we’re all expected to do,” Robel told the Indianapolis Business Journal.

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission said it cannot confirm or deny whether a complaint has been filed against an attorney unless it decides to file formal disciplinary charges against the attorney. The commission said Rokita is currently in good standing.

The abortion of the 10-year-old girl from Ohio has become a flashpoint in the national debate over abortion access. Rokita entered the fray on July 13 when he sent a letter to Gov. Eric Holcomb saying his staff were investigating whether Dr. Bernard failed to report the sexual assault of a minor to state authorities.

Later that evening, Rokita made an appearance on Fox News’ “Jesse Waters Primetime” show where he claimed Dr. Bernard had a “non-reporting history” and said his office was gathering evidence that Dr. Bernard, who had previously spoken publicly about his support for abortion rights, had not reported the procedure.

The following day, several media published copies of the termination report confirming that Dr. Bernard had reported the incident as required by law.

Kathleen DeLaney, an attorney for the doctor, said they were considering taking legal action against “those who smeared my client”, including Rokita.

The 10-year-old’s case has stirred up emotions in Indiana as state lawmakers prepare to meet for a special session on July 25 to pass legislation that is expected to further restrict access to the abortion for the Hoosiers. Indiana Republicans declined to discuss specifics of the bill, including whether it would allow exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

As the Indianapolis Star first reported on July 1, Dr. Bernard was referred by a child abuse doctor in Ohio — where abortion is illegal after six weeks — who had a 10-year-old patient six weeks and three days pregnant. .

The story garnered national attention when President Joe Biden invoked the case at a July 8 press conference, and outlets such as the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal began to question the veracity of the story. The WSJ editorial was later corrected after IndyStar and other publications confirmed that a 27-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the crime.

It is up to the Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission to decide whether Robel’s complaint against Rokita warrants investigation and whether formal disciplinary charges should be filed.

It is not unprecedented for the commission to investigate a sitting attorney general. In 2019, the commission investigated allegations that Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill groped four women at a party at a downtown bar.

The commission recommended that Hill’s law license be suspended for two years. The Indiana Supreme Court ultimately suspended Hill’s law license for 30 days, determining that he violated rules of professional conduct and committed the criminal act of battery. Hill has always denied any wrongdoing.

Jon J. Epps