Rokita drops attempt to reopen Bernard lawsuit ahead of doctor’s licensing hearing

The Republican Attorney General said he no longer needs to correct “errors” in a previous ruling.

By: - April 24, 2023 3:55 pm

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita and Dr. Caitlin Bernard, who was at the center of controversy last summer over a 10-year rape victim from Ohio. (Photos from Attorney General’s Office and Getty Images)

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita will abandon his attempt to reopen a lawsuit filed against himself by Indianapolis OB-GYN Dr. Caitlin Bernard, court documents show.

Rokita had sought to revive the case in order to challenge and correct “errors” in a previous ruling.

But in a withdrawal notice sent to the court on Friday, Rokita said a ruling on his earlier motion to reopen the lawsuit “is not necessary,” pointing to courtroom statements by Bernard’s lawyers at a hearing earlier this month.

Rokita emphasized that — according to Bernard’s counsel — the earlier court order is not binding. And because the doctor voluntarily dismissed the case, the lawsuit overall must be treated as if it was “never filed” and “never existed.”

Circuit Court Judge Amber Collins-Gebrehiwet said earlier this month that she would only consider whether to reopen Bernard’s case. If she decided in Rokita’s favor, Collins-Gebrehiwet said debate over a motion to “reconsider and correct error” should be heard by Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch, who made that ruling.

The matter stems from an ongoing legal saga surrounding Bernard, who last year oversaw a medication abortion for a 10-year-old rape victim from Ohio.

Bernard sued to stop Rokita’s office from obtaining certain patient records related to her care for the 10-year-old, who sought an abortion in Indiana after her pregnancy progressed beyond the 6-week cutoff in Ohio. 

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Bernard’s legal team voluntarily dismissed the case after it transitioned to an administrative licensing action before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board, scheduled to be heard next month. The court officially dismissed the case Nov. 12.

But Rokita filed to reopen it Jan. 9 to refute Welch’s finding that he violated state confidentiality laws.

A court ruling from that case said that Rokita violated the law during a televised appearance in which he called the healthcare provider an “abortion activist acting as a doctor.” In court filings, Rokita called the judge’s order an “erroneous finding.”

The attorney general highlighted in his Friday notice that Bernard’s lawyers amounted Welch’s statements to “dicta” — meaning the written opinion about Rokita is more akin to commentary, not legal reasoning to make a judgment in the case.

Rokita is likely to make similar references to statements made by Bernard’s lawyer as the legal fight continues — this time before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

Bernard is scheduled to appear May 25 in front of the board, which will weigh whether the doctor violated professional standards. A pre-hearing conference is set for Thursday.

In the latest filings with the state licensing board, Bernard continues to maintain that her public comments about the 10-year-old’s case were within the bounds of medical privacy rules. She also argues that she “could not” have knowingly violated Indiana’s child abuse reporting law because her notification to authorities was consistent with policies in place at IU Health, where she practices.


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Casey Smith
Casey Smith

A lifelong Hoosier, Casey Smith previously reported on the Indiana Legislature for The Associated Press. Internationally, she has reported on water quality across South America. She holds a master’s degree in investigative reporting and narrative science writing from the University of California/Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. She previously earned degrees in journalism, anthropology and Spanish from Ball State University, where she now serves as an instructor of journalism.