A record obtained by The Washington Post showed that Bernard, who administered the abortion medication to a girl who was forced to travel from her home state of Ohio for service, reported the incident to relevant government agencies as required by Indiana law.
Record shows Indiana doctor fulfilled duty to report 10-year-old’s abortion
Kathleen DeLaney, a lawyer for Bernard, told The Post Monday that Rokita’s actions “touched a chord” in the legal community for what she called a blatant ethical violation.
“As the highest-ranking attorney in Indiana, Todd Rokita must be held to a high standard of legal conduct and ethical conduct, and both his comments and the continued presence of his baseless claims on his state-run website suggest that a disciplinary investigation is warranted. DeLaney said.
Lauren Robel, the former dean of Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, filed a complaint Friday requesting an investigation into Rokita. It alleges that the Attorney General has “made inflammatory statements on national television, without due care as to their veracity,” according to a letter obtained by The Post.
“The attorney general has a job to protect civilians and not go after them without evidence on television,” Robel told The Post. “I’m just afraid without us calling in the bar” [out] that kind of behavior, when we see it, we lower the ethical standards for all lawyers. (Although Robel said she doesn’t know Bernard personally, both women are affiliated with Indiana University.)
A spokesman for Rokita’s office dismissed Robel’s complaint, saying in a statement, “Any attorney or client can file anything they want, even with no basis, which is the case here.”
The attorney general’s office said that while no enforcement actions have been filed against Bernard so far, it will continue its investigation into her conduct.
The Disciplinary Committee is charged with investigating and prosecuting claims by Indiana attorneys who violate state professional conduct rules. Once a complaint is filed, the agency reviews the information and decides whether to launch an investigation. If it finds there are grounds to punish a lawyer, the case is sent to the state’s Supreme Court for formal charges. In the range of possible outcomes, suspension is the most extreme.
Representatives of the Indiana Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
Kathleen Clark, a professor of ethics at Washington University at St. Louis School of Law, said the best chance of inciting “overwhelmed prosecutors” to file a case against an attorney general is an ethical complaint that is clear. provides arguments for how the rules of conduct would have been violated.
Probably the strongest argument against Rokita is his alleged violation of trial publicity rules, which generally dictate how lawyers involved in trials or investigations can comment on a case publicly. The guidelines aim to balance the public interest and freedom of expression, without “strengthening the public condemnation of the accused,” Clark said.
Doctor in abortion case of 10-year-old was threatened with kidnapping daughter in 2020
She said Rokita’s comments could affect the fairness of any investigation and put Bernard in “actual physical danger”.
“No government attorney should be a bully,” Clark said.
Susan Carle, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, said disciplinary committees have been wary of handling cases involving government officials in the past. But the country’s highly polarized environment and the discourse it has sparked have blurred the lines between law and politics — leading to a push for accountability from bar counters across the country.
“As the kind of political profanity and lack of standards of truthfulness continue to get worse, there will be more and more efforts in this direction,” Carle said.
If the commission does anything about the complaint against Rokita, it would be Indiana’s second consecutive attorney general to undergo a misconduct investigation. The state Supreme Court has suspended the law license of Rokita’s predecessor, Republican Curtis Hill, for 30 days after allegations that he four women. Hill lost his reelection bid to Rokita in 2020.
If the committee determines that Rokita’s comments are inaccurate, “I would like him to withdraw that statement and apologize for it,” said Robel, who filed the complaint.
On July 13, Robel watched as Rokita made what she called “baseless claims” against Bernard during an interview with Fox News host Jesse Watters. Hours earlier, a man had been charged with raping the 10-year-old girl, who had to travel to Indiana because of Ohio’s six-week abortion ban, the Indianapolis Star first reported. The case quickly divided the nation, some citing it as an example of the consequences of the overthrow Roe v. Wadewhile others claimed the story was “too good to confirm”.
Under Indiana’s law — which allows abortions up to 22 weeks gestation — health care providers are required to notify the state’s health and pediatric services within three days of the procedure of terminations of pregnancy in patients under 16 years of age. If you do not do this, then there is a crime.
Man charged with raping 10-year-old girl who had to travel for abortion
In the Fox interview, Rokita said his office was “gathering the evidence” and preparing to “fight this to the end,” when Watters questioned whether Bernard had followed the reporting law and asked if she would face criminal charges. He also sent a letter to Indiana Gov that day. Eric Holcomb (R) with the request for intervention, saying his office had not received any documentation that the girl’s abortion had been properly reported.
The next day, however, the media received the word of the termination of pregnancy, which revealed that Bernard had warned government authorities that the girl had been the victim of abuse within the three-day deadline.
Robel said in her complaint that Rokita’s comments “posted” [Bernard] in danger.” Bernardus is already listed as a “local abortion threat” on a website for 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 stop providing abortion services at a clinic in South Bend.
In a state that will ban abortion next week, when the GOP-controlled legislature holds a special session, Rokita’s investigation and statements feel like “an attempt to intimidate Bernard and other abortion providers,” Robel said.
“If he wants to stop abortion in the state of Indiana, there are legal channels to do that,” she said. “Harassment and intimidation by the chief legal officer of the state of Indiana is not one of them.”
“This is the opposite of the rule of law,” Robel added.