New records shed little light on state dollars spent on Rokita discipline and Bernard cases • Indiana Capital Chronicle

New records shed little light on state dollars spent on Rokita discipline and Bernard cases • Indiana Capital Chronicle

New public records, partially unredacted, offer a glimpse into the public dollars spent so far to defend Attorney General Todd Rokita’s law license.

Payments related to the attorney general’s disciplinary case are likely much larger than seen in the documents, but redactions continue to make it difficult to calculate the total sum.

Last week, Rokita’s office released 86 pages of attorney invoices from the Schaerr Jaffe law firm dated between August 2022 and October 2023. An earlier batch of records obtained by journalists last year were largely redacted by the Comptroller’s Office. of Indiana, who pays the bills.

The Washington, D.C.-based law firm was hired by the state to defend Rokita, whom the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission began investigating after a complaint was filed in late 2022, as reported by first time the Indiana Citizen.

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AG invoices_July 2022 to October 2023

The investigation -and final reprimand – emerged from the statement of the Republican attorney general televised comments about Indianapolis doctor Caitlin Bernard, who oversaw a medication abortion for a 10-year-old Ohio rape victim in 2022.

But the same firm was handling the attorney general’s medical leave case against Bernard, along with other cases. Previously, invoice blocks had made it impossible to distinguish which expenses were related to Rokita’s disciplinary matter.

New records made available by Rokita’s office show only a few expenses directly related to his disciplinary case. Still, the documents bring to light other expenses, indicating that more than $100,000 was spent in the weeks surrounding Bernard’s case before the Indiana Medical Licensing Board.

Rokita’s office referred the Indiana Capital Chronicle to a statement he issued last year:

“We will continue to use Schaerr Jaffe as this office has across multiple administrations, whether in relation to abortion activist Caitlin Bernard, separate pro-life issues, or other cases generally. Of course, public money is involved in any matter that defends the work of a State prosecutor whose efforts are carried out on behalf of the State.”

Editorials remain, but some new figures emerge

The Capital Chronicle and Indiana Citizen first requested the bills in October 2023.

The Indiana Comptroller’s Office handled the initial request and soon afterward released 44 pages of heavily redacted documents.

Luke Britt, the Indiana Public Access Counselor (PAC) said in a March 12 report that some of that wording was appropriate, but recommended that state officials only block parts of documents “consistent with the basic principles of transparency and good governance.”

In response to a records request made after Luke’s opinion, Rokita’s office released the slightly less redacted invoices last week.

The relevant invoice entries cite “disciplinary commission” or “DC case” to refer to the work recorded and invoiced by Schaerr Jaffe firm personnel.

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Visible among the charges are at least $385 spent on “next steps in litigation” in July and August 2023. Another $300 was spent in September 2023 on “continuing education” for Schaerr Jaffe lawyers working on the Rokita case .

It’s still unclear what the invoice items written around the same time were related to, but those charges add up to thousands of additional dollars.

However, the invoices provided by the attorney general’s office were submitted by Schaerr Jaffe through October 30, 2023, not including additional invoices subsequently invoiced for the October work, when most of the legal work with the commission was completed. disciplinary.

Because billing records can be sent weeks or months after work is recorded, invoice records are often delayed.

More details on the expenses of the Bernard case

While the spending in Rokita’s disciplinary case remains unclear, what has become clearer is the extent of state spending in Rokita’s case against Bernard before the Medical Licensing Board.

in the middle of legal saga Regarding the doctor, the state requested the suspension of Bernard’s medical license. Following a 14-hour hearing in May 2023, the licensing board finally ruled that Bernard violated state and federal patient privacy laws but refused to take actions that would affect his ability to practice.

Schaerr Jaffe’s billing shows more than $105,000 billed in May 2023 alone. Much of that billing is attributed to the Bernard case, according to the new records.

Among the items on the bill are more than $13,000 collected by Schaerr Jaffe’s attorney who was present the day of the licensing board hearing.

Tens of thousands of additional state dollars were spent on legal preparation by the law firm prior to the hearing, as well as attorney travel to and from Washington, DC.

Schaerr Jaffe’s contract with the state was first signed between the attorney general’s office and the law firm in 2020. At the time, the agreement concerned only a federal case. The contract has since been amended six times to include various other matters, including the legal defense of Rokita’s legal license.