Todd Rokita has neither sense nor shame.
There seems not to be a stupid fight Indiana’s attorney general won’t pick or taxpayer money he won’t waste to fuel the endlessly running engine that is his ambition to gain higher office.
The latest evidence that Rokita isn’t to be trusted either with a checkbook or to come in out of the rain can be found in his decision to hire — using Indiana taxpayer dollars — a rightwing boutique Washington, D.C., law firm to reopen a case the attorney general won.
Marilyn Odendahl of The Indiana Citizen did some fine reporting and discovered that Rokita’s office has hired Schaerr Jaffe to help get a judge’s order in Bernard et al v. Rokita et al revised. (Disclosure: The Indiana Citizen and TheStatehouseFile.com are partners.)
Some background is necessary to understand what’s going on.
Last summer, Dr. Caitlin Bernard performed an abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio girl who had been raped. Bernard did so with the permission and support of the girl’s parents and after filing all necessary notifications with the appropriate authorities in Ohio and Indiana.
The girl and her parents came to Bernard and Indiana because Ohio rushed into law a draconian abortion ban following the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
News reports of the abortion came out shortly after the procedure, but they were sketchy in detail.
That did not deter Indiana’s attorney general.
Rokita rushed onto Fox News to declare his office was launching an investigation into Bernard. He accused her, without providing any evidence whatsoever, of all sorts of malfeasance.
His charges were so outrageous that even Fox’s rightwing talking heads distanced themselves from them.
That was just the beginning of Rokita’s campaign of persecution. Even when Bernard and her attorney demonstrated she had filed every necessary piece of paperwork and thus complied with the law, the attorney general didn’t retreat or, heaven forbid, apologize for maligning the doctor. He looked for new ways to make her life miserable, instigating one spurious investigation after another.
Bernard responded by filing suit.
At the end of last year, Marion County Superior Court Judge Heather Welch denied Bernard’s request for a preliminary injunction. Welch said her court lacked jurisdiction because Rokita had referred the matter to the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.
But the judge also gave Rokita a sharp rap on the knuckles. She said the attorney general “clearly violated Indiana law when discussing the confidential investigations in the media.”
That is what the attorney general did not like.
Bernard dropped her suit after the judge issued the order, which left the court’s determination that Indiana’s top law enforcement official violated the law on the record.
So, Rokita hired Schaerr Jaffe to help rehabilitate his political reputation — and gave the firm a budget of up to $100,000 in taxpayer funds to try to make him look better.
Clearly, our attorney general thinks resurrecting his political ambitions is a better use of Hoosiers’ money than putting another teacher in the classroom, another cop on the streets or — here’s a novel notion — just letting people keep the cash themselves.
He has enlisted a law firm with a history of looking at the law through an ideological lens. The two lawyers who are the firm’s named partners — Gene Schaerr and Erik Jaffe — clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, respectively.
So, here’s where we are: Our attorney general is spending our money to try to relitigate a case in which he prevailed.
He’s doing so because he doesn’t like that the court, along with everyone else, noted that he rushed to the TV cameras to talk about a case he hadn’t even bothered to investigate. In the process, he showed the same regard for Indiana law a tomcat does for a marriage license.
The court didn’t drop the hammer on Rokita because a technicality prevented the judge from doing so.
A person with any sense would sigh with relief at dodging a bullet that way.
And a person with any sense of shame would feel abashed at so mistreating a doctor who just provided care to a little girl who suffered a horrible assault.
Todd Rokita, though, seems immune to such feelings.
And he’s our attorney general.
Makes you proud to be a Hoosier, doesn’t it?
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.