It increasingly appears that a defamation lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita is inevitable. NBC News reported:
The lawyer for a doctor who provided abortion services to a 10-year-old rape victim moved to file a defamation lawsuit against Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita. An attorney for Dr. Caitlin Bernard on Tuesday filed a tort claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, after Rokita told local and national media outlets that he was investigating the doctor after she performed the procedure on a patient who could not get an abortion in her home state of Ohio.
To briefly recap for those just joining us, it was a few weeks ago when the public first learned of a 10-year-old girl in Ohio who’d been impregnated by a rapist. As a result of a Republican-imposed abortion ban in her state, the girl had to travel to Indiana to terminate the pregnancy.
Soon after, Rokita shifted his attention to the physician who treated the victim, suggesting — both on Fox News and in a written statement — that Bernard may have engaged in criminal misconduct.
Those claims were quickly discredited through publicly available documents that the state attorney general apparently didn’t review before raising the accusations.
Late last week, the physician’s attorney sent Rokita a cease-and-desist letter. Yesterday, the same lawyer sent Rokita and other Indiana state officials another letter, this one arguing that her client has suffered harm as a result of the attorney general’s public statements.
For his part, Rokita’s spokesperson described the move as “part of a divisive narrative,” adding that he considers the underlying claim “baseless.”
That probably won’t stop the civil suit that appears increasingly inevitable.
But while the state attorney general prepares for that likely litigation, it appears that this isn’t the only point of concern for the Republican Hoosier. The Indianapolis Star reported:
Lauren Robel, a former dean of Indiana University’s law school, filed a complaint with the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission against Rokita on Friday, accusing him of “recklessly” making claims that weren’t backed by fact…. News of Robel’s request for an investigation came on the same day 14 Indiana law professors signed onto a separate letter to Rokita, demanding he walk back his previous statements and issue a public apology to the doctor.
Kathleen DeLaney, Bernard’s lawyer, told The Washington Post this week that Rokita’s actions have “touched a nerve” in the legal community for what she called a blatant ethical violation.
Those who pay attention to politics grow quite accustomed to consequence-free rhetorical smears. Someone in a position of authority decides to launch a public offensive against a political target, the offensive includes false claims, and the target is forced to deal with the effects of the smear. There’s too often no accountability for those who launch the unsubstantiated attacks.
In this case, however, Rokita is feeling the heat after going too far.