Legal Malpractice and the Penn State Scandal

/ 18.Dec, 2012

In connection with the Jerry Sandusky scandal, former Penn State Vice President, Gary Schultz, has been charged with perjury, failure to report suspected child abuse, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, and endangering the welfare of children.  Mr. Schultz has now filed a writ of summons against the former attorney for the university, and former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, Cynthia Baldwin, Esquire.  The legal malpractice action will likely be based upon an alleged conflict of interest.  Mr. Schultz apparently believed Ms. Baldwin represented him when he appeared before a grand jury.  Ms. Baldwin maintains she was only representing the university.  There is an accusation that Ms. Baldwin later gave testimony against Mr. Schultz before the same grand jury.

Ms. Baldwin allegedly told Mr. Schultz she was representing the university and  he could get his own lawyer.  However, there have been no reports that this alleged conflict of interest and/or limitation of representation was reduced to writing.  This case could have been avoided by a non-engagement letter clearly setting forth the scope of Ms. Baldwin’s representation.  Ms. Baldwin would have been well served by stating on the record that she was not representing Mr. Schultz when he stated that he was accompanied by counsel at the grand jury hearing.  Legal malpractice avoidance best practices includes being very clear with respect to who you represent and the scope of representation.  This case makes clear that failing to do so can ensnare even a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice.

-Josh J.T. Byrne, Esquire