Indiana AG comments endangered abortion provider, complaint says

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A conduct complaint alleges that Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita intended to “harass and intimidate” doctors who perform abortions when he publicly questioned that an OB/ Indianapolis GYN complied with state law after helping a 10-year-old rape victim terminate a pregnancy.

The The newly filed complaint against Indiana’s top prosecutor is expected to spark an investigation by the state’s Supreme Court Disciplinary Panel after Rokita, a Republican, claimed last week on Fox News that doctor Caitlin Bernard had a “history of not reporting” abortions in child abuse cases and quickly launched an investigation into her license.

A file obtained by The Washington Post showed that Bernard, who administered the abortion drug to a girl forced to travel from her home state of Ohio for service, reported the incident to the relevant state agencies, as required by Indiana law.

File Shows Indiana Doctor Fulfilled Duty to Report Abortion of 10-Year-Old Girl

Kathleen DeLaney, Bernard’s attorney, told The Post on Monday that Rokita’s actions had “strung a chord” in the legal community for what she called a gross ethical violation.

“As Indiana’s highest-ranking attorney, Todd Rokita should be held to a high standard of legal conduct and ethical behavior, and his comments and the continued presence of his baseless allegations on his website operated by the state suggest that a disciplinary investigation is warranted,” DeLaney said.

Lauren Robel, the former dean of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, filed the lawsuit on Friday seeking an investigation of Rokita. He alleges the attorney general made “inflammatory statements on national television, without due diligence as to their veracity,” according to a letter obtained by The Post.

“The Attorney General’s job is to protect citizens, not prosecute them without evidence on television,” Robel told the Post. “I’m just afraid that without those of us in the bar calling [out] this kind of behavior when we see it, we lower the standards” of ethics for all lawyers. (Although Robel said she did not know Bernard personally, both women are affiliated with Indiana University.)

A spokesperson for Rokita’s office dismissed Robel’s complaint, saying in a statement that “any attorney or client can file whatever they want, even without merit, which is the case here.”

The attorney general’s office said that although no enforcement action has been filed against Bernard so far, it will continue to investigate his conduct.

The Disciplinary Commission is responsible for investigating and prosecuting any claims by Indiana attorneys that violate state rules of professional conduct. Once a complaint is filed, the agency reviews the information and decides whether or not to launch an investigation. If it finds that there are grounds for a lawyer to be disciplined, the case is returned to the state Supreme Court for formal arraignment. Of the range of possible outcomes, radiation is the most extreme.

Representatives of the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Kathleen Clark, professor of ethics at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, said the best chance to entice “overwhelmed bar prosecutors” to pursue a case against an attorney general is a complaint. in ethics that presents clear arguments on how the rules of conduct would have been violated.

Probably the strongest argument against Rokita is his alleged violation of open trial rules, which generally dictate how attorneys involved in trials or investigations can comment publicly on a case. The guidelines seek to balance the public interest and free speech without “aggravating the defendant’s public condemnation,” Clark said.

The doctor in the abortion case of a 10-year-old child was threatened with kidnapping in 2020 against his daughter

She said Rokita’s comments could affect the fairness of any investigation and could leave Bernard in “real physical danger”.

“No government lawyer is supposed to be a bully,” Clark said.

Susan Carle, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said disciplinary boards have always been wary of cases involving public officials. But the country’s highly polarized environment and the discourse it has engendered have blurred the line between law and politics – and spurred pressure for accountability from bar associations across the country.

“As the level of political invective and the lack of truthfulness standards continue to escalate, there will be more and more efforts in this direction,” Carle said.

If the commission were to proceed with the complaint against Rokita, he would be the second successive Indiana Attorney General to face a misconduct investigation. The state Supreme Court suspended the law license of Rokita’s predecessor, Republican Curtis Hill, for 30 days after allegations that he groped four women. Hill lost his re-election bid to Rokita in 2020.

If the commission determines that Rokita’s comments were off the mark, “then I would like him to withdraw that statement and apologize for it,” said Robel, who filed the complaint.

Gershon Fuentes, 27, was arrested on July 13 in Ohio, where he was accused of raping a 10-year-old girl who had to travel to Indiana for an abortion. (Video: Reuters)

On July 13, Robel saw Rokita make what she called “baseless allegations” against Bernard during an interview with Fox News host Jesse Watters. Hours earlier, a man was accused of raping the 10-year-old girl, who had to travel to Indiana due to Ohio’s ban on abortions after six weeks, the Indianapolis reported. Star for the first time. The case quickly divided the nation, with some citing it as an example of the consequences of a reversal Roe vs. Wadewhile others claimed the story was “too good to confirm”.

Under Indiana law — which allows abortion up to 22 weeks of pregnancy — providers are required to alert state departments of health and child services of pregnancy terminations. in patients under 16 within three days of the procedure. Failure to do so is an offence.

Man accused of raping 10-year-old girl who had to travel for abortion

In the Fox interview, Rokita said her office was “gathering the evidence” and preparing to “fight this all the way” when Watters asked if Bernard had complied with the reporting law and asked if she would. criminally charged. That day he also sent a letter to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) asking for intervention, saying his office had not received documentation that the girl’s abortion had been properly reported.

The next day, however, the media got the terminated pregnancy report showing that Bernard had alerted state agencies that the girl had been abused within the three-day window.

Robel said in her complaint that Rokita’s comments “placed [Bernard] in danger.” Bernhard is already listed as a “local abortion threat” on a website of Right to Life Michiana, an anti-abortion group based in South Bend, Ind. Two years ago, The Post reported, a kidnapping threat was made against her daughter – forcing Bernard to provide abortion services at a clinic in South Bend.

In a state slated to ban abortion in the coming week when its GOP-controlled legislature holds a special session, Rokita’s investigation and statements sound like “an attempt to intimidate” Bernard and other providers. abortion, Robel said.

“If he wants to stop abortion in the state of Indiana, there are legal avenues to do so,” she said. “Harassment and intimidation by the Indiana State Chief Legal Officer is not one of them.”

“It’s the opposite of the rule of law,” Robel added.

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