Cynthia Baldwin did nothing wrong.
That, in effect, was the opinion recently issued by a three-member committee, which heard allegations from the Pennsylvania Office of Disciplinary Counsel that Baldwin violated many Rules of Professional Conduct for attorneys.
“Although no attorney wants to be the subject of a disciplinary proceeding, in this case it was a blessing. It was not until an evidentiary hearing was held on the allegations of ethical misconduct that the public was able to see firsthand that Cynthia Baldwin at all times fulfilled her ethical responsibilities,” said Baldwin’s attorney, Charles DeMonaco, in a statement provided to the New Pittsburgh Courier, Oct. 31. “A neutral and objective three member-hearing committee considered all of the evidence and unanimously concluded that her conduct was diligent, proper and in compliance with all of her professional responsibilities. Although this was a six-year ordeal, justice prevailed in the end. Hopefully, this decision will put to rest any professional criticism of Cynthia Baldwin and will allow her to live her life with the dignity and respect that she has so rightly earned and deserved over her distinguished 38-year career.”
Baldwin served as general counsel for Penn State University beginning in 2010, after retiring as a Pennsylvania state Supreme Court Justice in 2008. Prior to her appointment to the bench in 2006, she spent 16 years as an Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge, breaking down barriers as the first African American woman to achieve this feat.
As the university’s first-ever general counsel, Baldwin was to build a legal counsel’s office within Penn State. At the time, she was also a member of Penn State’s board of trustees and previously served as its chairwoman.
But a year into her new role, the university was turned upside down with what’s known as the Penn State sexual abuse scandal, where, ultimately, former Penn State assistant coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted on 45 counts of rape and sexual assault against children. He was sentenced to 30 to 60 years in prison.
The university’s top brass was also forced out of their positions, some sentenced to jail time, as they were accused of covering up Sandusky’s actions or at the least, not doing enough to prevent future actions.
As Baldwin represented the university, former Penn State president Graham Spanier, former vice president Gary Schultz and former athletic director Tim Curley, she was accused of having a “conflict of interest” in representing all the entities at the same time before the grand jury. Baldwin was additionally accused by the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of not providing proper representation to Curley and Schultz before the grand jury, and improperly testifying before the grand jury and wrongfully disclosing confidential client information.
Baldwin, in a flip, eventually became an important witness for the prosecution against the same Penn State administrators.
In the three-member committee’s report, obtained by the New Pittsburgh Courier, the committee disagreed with the allegations against Baldwin, and wrote that Baldwin made it clear to Spanier, Schultz and Curley that she would not be able to represent them if their interests were not similarly aligned with those of Penn State University.
“Respondent (Baldwin) very clearly sought to ensure that there was no conflict between their interests and the interests of PSU. She said that she could not go in with them to the Grand Jury proceedings unless she was sure that there was no conflict between them and the University,” the report, released Oct. 26, read.
The report, signed by local attorney Leonard J. Marsico, later read: “They all knew she (Baldwin) was General Counsel to PSU, and they were anxious to show PSU they had done nothing wrong and had nothing to hide by securing her representation of them jointly with PSU. They each heard her tell them that she could not do so until she determined if their stories were consistent and not adverse to the interests of PSU.”
In May, when the Office of Disciplinary Counsel brought its allegations against Baldwin, she was able to take the stand and announce that she felt “duped” by the same Penn State officials she testified against. She was under the impression from the administrators that there was no criminal wrongdoing done on their part.
Baldwin was facing disciplinary action anywhere from a private reprimand up to disbarment.
However, with the three-member panel’s decision, which almost certainly will be accepted by the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, Baldwin has been exonerated of any wrongdoing.
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