Monday, September 18, 2023

Ethics Charges Brought Against Indiana Attorney General For Conduct Toward Doctor

The Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has filed a complaint against State Attorney General Theodore Rokita for statements made on the Jesse Waters program and elsewhere about Dr. Caitlin Bernard as an "abortion activist doctor - with a history of failure to report" and by making public statements from July-September 2022 prior to a referral to the state licensing investigation of Dr. Bernard, allegedly in violation of statutory confidentiality provisions.

In the Waters interview, this statement is alleged, in part

This is a horrible, horrible scene. Caused, caused by Marxists, socialists and those in the White House who don't, who want lawlessness at the border. And then this girl was politicized - politicized for the gain of killing more babies. All right, that was the goal. And this abortion activist is out there front and center. The lamesteam media, fake news, is right behind. Unfortunately, in Indiana, the paper of record [Indy Star] is fake news. And they were right there jumping in on all of this, thinking it was going to be great for their abortionist movement when this girl has been, uh, so brutalized.

Rokita is alleged to have violated the confidentiality of the licensing proceeding as well as rules on trial publicity, engaging in conduct having no substantial purpose other than to embarrass, delay or burden a third person and conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

IndyStar reported on the charges and his response

In Rokita's response filed with the state Supreme Court, he admits that the phrase he used on Watters' show "could reasonably be considered to have violated" those professional conduct rules, but he denies the confidentiality charge. He argues that "no confidentiality should be required" since Bernard first discussed the 10-year-old's story publicly in a way that the state Medical Licensing Board later decided violated patient privacy laws, and questions whether the scope of the confidentiality statute actually applies to the elected position of attorney general or just to employees of the office.

Also from the Indy Star reporting

Former IU law school dean Lauren Robel filed one of the complaints, as did Don Lundberg, a former executive director of the disciplinary commission.

Lundberg told IndyStar that other than this, he has never filed a grievance in his 48 years of practicing law.

"I think it's a serious matter," he said. "To maybe turn the tables a bit on the rhetoric of the right, to me, this was the weaponization of government against a physician who was working within her specialty to assist a young victim of a horrible crime. I think it's an utter abuse of that office."

The commission and the subject of the disciplinary complaint can participate in a “trial-like” proceeding regarding each side’s view of the charges. Both parties can also agree misconduct occurred and submit an agreement to the Supreme Court for review. 

Raw Story reports on recent efforts by Rokita to use his position to go after the doctor and her hospital

The Republican Indiana attorney general is going after a hospital where Dr. Caitlin Bernard works, saying that she violated a patient's rights by describing the story of a 10-year-old rape victim that was pregnant. Bernard never identified the girl.

It is one of several attempts that anti-abortion AG Todd Rokita has used to go after the doctor. The state has strict abortion laws after legal battles failed.

The AG claims in the suit, "Neither the 10-year-old nor her mother gave the doctor authorization to speak to the media about their case."

"The lawsuit named Indiana University Health and IU Healthcare Associates. It alleged the hospital system violated HIPPA, the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and a state law for not protecting the patient’s information," said NBC News.

(Mike Frisch)

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_profession/2023/09/ethics-charges-brought-against-indiana-attorney-general-for-conduct-toward-doctor.html

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