For years, three Penn State executives argued in court that a university lawyer mislead them about who she represented in Jerry Sandusky grand jury proceedings.
Now she is facing her own legal issues for that. A Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania hearing has been scheduled in May for Cynthia Baldwin.
The Office of Disciplinary Counsel in November filed a petition for discipline against Baldwin — a former state Supreme Court justice, Penn State trustee and university general counsel.
The petition charged Baldwin with professional misconduct in violation of the Rules of Professional Conduct in relation to the Sandusky investigation.
According to the petition, Baldwin allegedly violated the following rules: that a lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client; that a lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless he or she has given informed consent; that a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest; and that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
In Baldwin’s answer, filed in January, she denied violating the Rules of Professional Conduct and asked for the allegations against her to be dismissed.
“Ms. Baldwin has had a long and distinguished legal career, a career that clearly establishes that Ms. Baldwin is competent, ethical and professional. Ms. Baldwin has never before been the subject of any disciplinary complaint or violation,” the answer states.
According to the petition, Baldwin — who at the time was Penn State’s general counsel and chief legal officer — knew by December 2010 that an investigating grand jury had been impaneled by the state attorney general’s office with regard to an investigation of Sandusky for alleged child abuse. (Sandusky was convicted in 2012 of 45 of 48 counts of child sex abuse crimes.)
Part of the matter before the grand jury involved his conduct while employed at Penn State, and among those subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury were then three of the university’s top leaders: head football coach Joe Paterno, Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior Vice President for Finance and Business Gary Schultz.
A subpoena also asked Penn State for any documents related to Sandusky created after 1997. Baldwin accepted service of all four subpoenas, the petition states.
According to the documents, Baldwin informed Paterno, Curley and Schultz that she would appear with them before the grand jury and that she “knew or should have known that the interests of Penn State could be adverse to those of Mr. Paterno, Mr. Curley and Mr. Schultz, as employees of Penn State and/or that her representation of them could be materially limited by her concurrent representation of Penn State.”
She didn’t inform them of those concurrent or potential conflicts of interest, the petition states.
Paterno retained other counsel, but Baldwin appeared with Curley and Schultz for their testimony before the grand jury, where they both identified Baldwin as their counsel, and she didn’t state otherwise, according to the petition.
A subpoena was later issued for Graham Spanier, then president of Penn State, and Baldwin agreed to represent him for his testimony, the petition states. Baldwin didn’t inform him of any conflicts of interest and appeared with him for his testimony.
In October 2012, Baldwin denied being counsel for Curley, Schultz or Spanier in her own testimony before the grand jury.
Curley, Schultz and Spanier were charged with perjury — in addition to other charges — based upon their grand jury testimony and Baldwin’s contrary testimony, the petition states. Those charges were later dropped because the men were “effectively denied counsel for the testimony,” after four years of delays in the case, due in part to the defense raising the Baldwin issue in front of multiple judges.
Baldwin, through her answer, denied informing Curley, Schultz or Spanier that she would appear with any of them before the grand jury as their individual counsel.
In addition, the answer states, Baldwin informed them that nothing they told her was confidential from Penn State because she represented Penn State, and she had no reason to believe, at the time of their testimony, that the interests of the three men were adverse to the interests of Penn State.