The Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court recommended earlier this month that the former general counsel of Pennsylvania State University report to the court for public censure for ethics violations related to her representation of school officials following the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal.
The Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel claims Cynthia Baldwin violated Rules 1.1, 1.7, 1.6 and 8.4 of the Rules of Professional Conduct. Specifically, the office claimed Baldwin did not notify her clients of a conflict of interest with the university. She represented three former Penn State officials convicted of failing to inform authorities about allegations of child sex abuse by ex-football coach Sandusky: athletic coach Tim Curley, vice president Gary Schultz and president Graham Spanier.
The office claims Baldwin failed to properly represent Schultz and Curley before the grand jury and gave confidential client information during her own grand jury testimony.
“Respondent [Baldwin] failed to properly advise her clients and advocate on their behalf, and failed to exercise the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation, and thus failed to competently represent Mr. Curley, Mr. Schultz and Dr. Spanier, in violation of RPC 1.1,” the disciplinary board said in the recommendation.
The board added that disbarment and suspension are not appropriate forms of discipline.
“At the outset, we find that this case does not involve a respondent who poses a danger to the public or the profession, nor is there any question as to the quality of respondent’s character, as her misconduct does not reflect dishonesty in the practice of law,” the board said.
Rather the board said Baldwin mishandled the matter from the beginning, which led to the failure to disclose a conflict of interest.
“While serious, we have no concern that this misconduct demonstrates that respondent is unfit to practice law,” the board said.
The disciplinary board’s recommendation to have Baldwin appear for public censure before the high court is a departure from a panel’s October recommendation that the claims against Baldwin be dismissed. The panel found that the Office of Disciplinary Counsel failed to show that Baldwin was incompetent in her representation of school officials and that she did not give the grand jury privileged client information.
Baldwin’s attorney, Charles De Monaco, a partner at Fox Rothschild in Pittsburgh, said he was disappointed with the board’s decision.
“We are shocked and take exception to the report and recommendation of the Disciplinary Board and are disappointed that it did not adopt the diligent work of the Disciplinary Board Hearing Committee as set forth in its detailed October 2018 report and recommendation,” De Monaco said in a statement on behalf of Baldwin. “The Hearing Committee considered all of the evidence and heard the testimony presented and unanimously concluded that Cynthia Baldwin’s conduct was at all times diligent, proper and in compliance with her professional responsibilities. We look forward to the review of this matter by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.”