Here’s a question:
With all the time, energy and money Todd Rokita devotes to dealing with the petty feuds he’s started, the crises he’s created for himself and the self-manufactured scandals in which he’s engulfed, does he have any left to spend doing the people’s business as Indiana’s attorney general?
Marilyn Odendahl of The Indiana Citizen just reported that Rokita is working to both delay and escalate his persecution of Dr. Caitlin Bernard. (Disclosure: TheStatehouseFile.com and The Indiana Citizen have a partnership.)
Bernard is the Indiana doctor who last summer performed an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim. Bernard did so at the request of the girl’s parents. The doctor and the parents notified all the proper authorities in Indiana and Ohio.
None of this deterred Rokita.
Without bothering to determine what actually had happened, he rushed onto Fox News to accuse Bernard of offenses so outrageous Fox quickly backed away from them.
Skirmishing followed. Bernard sued Rokita. Perhaps to avoid an adverse ruling in that suit, Rokita took his case to the medical licensing board.
A judge dismissed Bernard’s suit, saying the medical licensing board now had jurisdiction. But the judge also rapped Rokita hard on the knuckles, ruling he had violated confidentiality laws.
That prompted Rokita to hire expensive outside counsel at taxpayer expense to try to reopen a case he — on the surface, anyway — had won.
Now that the tussle has shifted to the medical licensing board, Rokita wants to stretch things out. He’s trying to force an Indianapolis Star reporter who interviewed Bernard to do a deposition.
And he’s rearranged his legal team, adding his pricey outside counsel — again, at taxpayer expense — to his roster.
Bernard’s lawyer argued in response that Rokita took his time deciding to depose the Star reporter and Bernard was ready for a resolution.
Generally, clients and lawyers who are confident of their cases want to make them as soon as possible. Those who aren’t so certain seek delays to conduct fishing expeditions hoping to turn up something — anything — that will help them.
The medical licensing board denied Rokita’s request for a delay.
This means that — soon — the nation’s attention will turn to Indiana, when our state will be depicted as one where a feckless attorney general wasted time and taxpayer money trying to punish a kind doctor for helping a little girl who had been raped.
What’s frustrating about this is it is part of a pattern.
From the beginning, Rokita has devoted himself to squabbles that had nothing to do with the interests of the people of Indiana.
He filed amicus briefs in suits by partisans of former President Donald Trump that tried to instruct other states on how to conduct elections.
He attempted to turn the position of attorney general into a part-time gig so he could hold onto a lucrative private-sector post. He sought the inspector general’s opinion on this arrangement, claimed it completely vindicated him even as he decided to resign the private-sector job and managed to get himself sued when he refused to release the inspector general’s report. Then, desperate to keep the report private, he had his office lobby the Indiana General Assembly to make such opinions confidential — and to make this new provision of law retroactive so it would cover him.
Also, he initiated a truly idiotic fight with conservative media personality Abdul-Hakim Shabazz. Rokita settled that dispute only after observers, including me, pointed out he was likely to lose and, when he did, the taxpayers would have to pay Shabazz’s legal fees, too.
There’s more, but, frankly, it’s depressing to list all the dumb, senseless squabbles Rokita has instigated.
The problem is that Todd Rokita is the lawyer for the people of Indiana.
He seems to have endless hours to spend helping, however ineptly, himself.
For the state’s citizens, though?
Not so much.
John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students, where this commentary originally appeared. The opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the views of Franklin College. Send comments to [email protected]