In January of 2010, Penn State hired Cynthia Baldwin as the university’s full-time general counsel and chief legal officer. This wouldn’t have been notable, if it weren’t for the fact that she was the first in-house lawyer the university ever had.
Before Baldwin, Penn State relied on Wendell Courtney, an attorney in the Central Pennsylvania law firm of McQuaide-Blasko, for most of its legal work. In addition to serving as primary counsel for the university, he also did work, pro bono, for The Second Mile charity.
According to the Grand Jury presentment, Courtney was at the least made aware of the allegations against Jerry Sandusky that were leveled in 1998. “Schultz testified that the 1998 incident was reviewed by the University Police and “the child protection agency” with the blessing of then-University counsel Wendell Courtney,” it reads.
“Courtney was then and remains counsel for The Second Mile.”
It’s important to remember that the Grand Jury presentment in no way implicates Courtney in the alleged cover-up, not connecting his name to the 2002 investigation, or lack thereof. However, finding out what Courtney knew, and when, would clear up many of the details.
But the more pressing question that has arisen in the wake of the charges is why Penn State only last year decided to hire a full-time general counsel, distancing itself from the attorney who’d served them for so long? Might the administration have known that their need for legal representation was about to take a drastic upswing?
And more specifically, that Wendell Courtney wouldn’t be able to handle it?