Inexplicable. Irresponsible. Impenitent. Or, as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court put it, unfathomable, incompetent, and sanctionable. The Court handed former Penn State University General Counsel, Cynthia Baldwin, a public reprimand for failing to recognize—and cut off or fully embrace—her attorney–client relationship with Penn State officials and later revealing their privileged communications to a grand jury.
The Court found that Baldwin breached her clients’ attorney–client privilege and violated Model Rule 1.6, failed to provide competent representation in violation of Rule 1.1, did not recognize a conflict of interest in violation of Rule 1.7, and obstructed the administration of justice in violation of Rule 8.4. Office of Disciplinary Counsel v. Cynthia A. Baldwin, 2020 WL 808757 (Pa. Feb. 19, 2020). You may read the thorough and well-reasoned opinion here.
A Frank Discussion
We derive no joy from the mistakes of our brothers and sisters of the bar. And we discuss those mistakes respectfully. Indeed, to paraphrase Protestant preacher John Bradford’s comment while imprisoned in the Tower of London and watching others march to the gallows, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”
But another adage, attributed to many, provides that “It is better to learn from the mistakes of others than to wait until you make them yourself.” So, let’s learn from a lawyer’s mistakes that arose from a horrible situation.