By Marilyn Odendahl

(Editor’s note: this story has been updated to include an additional comment from the attorney general’s office.)

By Marilyn Odendahl

The Indiana Citizen

November 29, 2023

In response to the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission opening another investigation into allegations of misconduct, Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s office issued a statement Tuesday evening, saying, in part, “he has learned from the situation and – like everyone – can always do better.”

The attorney general’s office issued the statement to The Indiana Citizen after it reported Tuesday that a preliminary investigation by the disciplinary commission is underway. After the statement was published Wednesday, the attorney general’s office asked that an additional comment be included which defended Rokita as being the “only one who stepped up to protect a 10-year-old’s medical privacy.”

Rokita is being investigated for potentially violating two rules of professional conduct for the remarks he made after the state Supreme Court publicly reprimanded him on Nov. 2.

Rokita had been investigated, and then reprimanded, for his comment about Dr. Caitlin Bernard, an Indianapolis OB/GYN, on Fox News in July 2022. On the cable news station, Rokita referred to Bernard as an “abortion activist acting as a doctor – with a history of failing to report.”

A divided Indiana Supreme Court accepted the conditional agreement that had been negotiated between Rokita’s attorneys and the disciplinary commission. In a 3-2 vote, the majority noted the parties had agreed that Rokita’s comment violated Indiana Professional Conduct Rules 3.6(a) and 4.4(a), respectively, which prohibit lawyers from making statements that could prejudice an adjudicative proceeding and that have no purpose other than to embarrass, delay, or burden another person.

On Tuesday, a spokesperson from the attorney general’s office said Rokita had cooperated with the first investigation and admitted to two disciplinary charges.   

“We cannot comment on something we have not seen,” the spokesperson’s statement said in an email. “However we can say that Attorney General Todd Rokita cooperated with the investigation the entire time. He also took the rare action of admitting two of the charges in his initial court filing instead of making the usual perfunctory denials. He publicly stated that he has learned from the situation and – like everyone – can always do better. And he certainly didn’t lie about anything.”

The denial about lying refers to the current investigation by the disciplinary commission.

Rokita has been asked to provide a written response to the allegations that he violated professional conduct rules 3.3(a)(1) and 8.4(c). These two rules prohibit lawyers from knowingly making false statements to a tribunal (such as the Indiana Supreme Court) and from engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.

In his remarks soon after being reprimanded in the first disciplinary investigation, Rokita drew attention to the affidavit he signed to settle the case.

“Having evidence and explanation for everything I said, 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 said in his Nov. 2 statement. “In order to resolve this, I was required to sign an affidavit without any modifications.”

Rokita’s post-reprimand statements caused at least two attorneys to file new grievances with the disciplinary commission. Paula Cardoza-Jones and William Groth filed their grievances separately and independently.

Cardoza-Jones, who previously worked two years as a staff attorney with the disciplinary commission, asserted in her grievance that Rokita made false statements to the disciplinary commission and the Indiana Supreme Court. The attorney general’s comment about signing the affidavit to save taxpayers money, she said, “directly contradicted his sworn affidavit,” in which he would have admitted to the facts underlying the two charges against him and that he could not have successfully defended himself against them.

The statement issued by Rokita’s office Tuesday took a swipe at Cardoza-Jones and Groth. It also pointed out that Bernard had been disciplined by the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana.

Bernard became part of a media firestorm after The Indianapolis Star reported she had performed an abortion on a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim in the summer of 2022. The girl could not receive care in her home state, since Ohio had implemented severe restrictions on abortion in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned a woman’s right to an abortion.

Rokita’s office filed a complaint against Bernard, claiming she had violated patient privacy laws by speaking about the Ohio girl to the media and that she had failed to comply with reporting laws. After a day-long hearing, the medical licensing board unanimously found Bernard did not violate abuse reporting laws but the majority concluded she had not followed privacy laws. Bernard was subsequently reprimanded and fined $3,000.

The attorney general’s spokesperson said in the remainder of the Tuesday statement, “This one-way street of self-serving accusations made by attorneys with one-sided voting records and giving histories is now being built into a highway of oncoming baseless claims leading into an election year – all over a 16-word television response made after a doctor was found to be talking about her patient PUBLICLY at a political rally on the heels of the repeal of Roe v. Wade.”

In the additional statement, the attorney general’s spokesperson echoed Rokita’s post-reprimand remarks in which he had accused “liberal activists” of targeting him because “they hate the fact I stand up for liberty.”

The spokesperson said, in the added statement, that “the Left” was paying attention only because the issue is about abortion.

“If the rally and the patient’s condition concerned anything other than the politically charged issue of abortion, the Left would not be giving any of this a second self-interested thought,” the spokesperson said, referencing the reproductive rights rally where an Indianapolis Star reporter overheard and confirmed with Bernard the story about the 10-year-old rape victim. “Attorney General Rokita is the only one who stepped up to protect a 10-year old’s medical privacy after she was used by the very same kind of people who continue to complain about him now. He will not be deterred in his work.”


Dwight Adams, a freelance editor and writer based in Indianapolis, edited this article. He is a former content editor, copy editor and digital producer at The Indianapolis Star and, and worked as a planner for other newspapers, including the Louisville Courier Journal. 

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