Criminal Practice

Could Baldwin's Role Doom Case Against PSU Officials?

, The Legal Intelligencer


Cynthia Baldwin

"Any suggestion by the defendants and their counsel that Mr. Schultz, Mr. Curley or Dr. Spanier did not understand Justice Baldwin's role or whom she represented lacks any merit," he said.

De Monaco cited the reasoning that the presiding grand jury judge, Barry F. Feudale, gave in his opinion from April, in which he held that Baldwin had no conflict of interest.

"The remedy that the defendants are seeking is unprecedented and extraordinary—without any basis in fact or law," De Monaco said.

What the 'Client' Thinks

According to the transcripts of grand jury proceedings from April 13, 2011, before Spanier was brought out to testify regarding his awareness of allegedly reported incidents of sexual assault, Baldwin indicated to the judge that she represented "the university solely."

However, when Spanier took the stand less than an hour later, he identified Baldwin as his counsel.

In a motion to quash from May, Spanier attorney Elizabeth K. Ainslie of Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis contended that the charges of perjury, obstruction and conspiracy to commit perjury should be dropped because they depended on testimony that violated the attorney-client privilege and, alternatively, because the testimony was elicited from Spanier when he was deprived of counsel.

According to several attorneys who spoke with the Law Weekly, whatever belief the defendants have regarding their representation will be a weighty factor in the proceedings.

"You need to carefully instruct people that I represent the organization and not you individually," Laigaie said. "What the [would-be] client thinks ... matters. The [would-be] client might be wrong and it could lead to a problem. It's a very fundamental point."

Although the nature of an attorney-client relationship is very fact specific, individuals' beliefs can determine whether their conversations should be privileged, and it could potentially allow individuals to seek safe harbor for their actions, claiming they believed they were acting upon the advice of counsel, attorneys who spoke to the Law Weekly said.

"The argument that Spanier could have is that: 'This counsel wasn't representing my interest. I needed counsel to advise me and would need advice about whether I should even testify,'" Hockeimer said, adding that the relationships between general counsel and administrators can be difficult to navigate, especially when a client is subpoenaed to take the stand. "Anytime you have somebody under oath in a criminal proceeding, there are risks."

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