Here are select November 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Accountability for Money Received from Client. Atty. Lawsin undertook to process the registration and eventually deliver, within a period of 6 months, the certificate of title over a certain parcel of land (subject land) in favor of complainant acting as the representative of the Heirs of the late Isabel Segovia. Atty. Lawsin received from complainant the amounts of P15,000 and P39,000 to cover for the litigation and land registration expenses, respectively. Atty. Lawsin, however, failed to fulfil his undertaking and failed to return the money to complainant. The Supreme Court held that Atty. Lawsin’s failure to properly account for and duly return his client’s money despite due demand is tantamount to a violation of Rules 16.01 and 16.03, Canon 16 of the Code. Complainant’s purported act of “maligning” him does not justify the latter’s failure to properly account for and return his client’s money upon due demand. Verily, a lawyer’s duty to his client is one essentially imbued with trust so much so that it is incumbent upon the former to exhaust all reasonable efforts towards its faithful compliance. Azucena Segovia-Ribaya v. Atty. Bartolome C. Lawsin, A.C. No. 7965, November 13, 2013.
Attorney; Administrative Proceedings; Sole Issue. Complainants filed a complaint for dishonesty against respondent, a retired judge, for knowingly making untruthful statements in the complaint he filed against them. The Supreme Court held that in administrative cases, the only issue within the ambit of the Court’s disciplinary authority is whether a lawyer is fit to remain a member of the Bar. Other issues are proper subjects of judicial action. On its face, the 12 September 2006 complaint filed by the Spouses Williams against Atty. Enriquez does not merit an administrative case. In order for the Court to determine whether Atty. Enriquez is guilty of dishonesty, the issue of ownership must first be settled. The issue of ownership of real property must be settled in a judicial, not administrative, case. Sps. David Williams and Marissa Williams v. Atty. Rudy T. Enriquez, A.C. No. 7329, November 27, 2013.
Here are select October 2013 cases on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Gross Immoral Conduct. Respondent Pedreña, a Public Attorney, was charged for sexual harassment. The Supreme Court held that the records show that the respondent rubbed the complainant’s right leg with his hand; tried to insert his finger into her firmly closed hand; grabbed her hand and forcibly placed it on his crotch area; and pressed his finger against her private part. Given the circumstances in which he committed them, his acts were not merely offensive and undesirable but repulsive, disgraceful and grossly immoral. They constituted misconduct on the part of any lawyer. In this regard, immoral conduct is gross when it is so corrupt as to constitute a criminal act, or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree, or when committed under such scandalous or revolting circumstances as to shock the community’s sense of decency. Atty. Pedreña’s misconduct was aggravated by the fact that he was then a Public Attorney mandated to provide free legal service to indigent litigants, and by the fact that complainant was then such a client. He also disregarded his oath as a public officer to serve others and to be accountable at all times, because he thereby took advantage of her vulnerability as a client then in desperate need of his legal assistance. Thus, respondent was meted out the penalty of suspension from the practice of law for two (2) years. Jocelyn De Leon v. Atty. Tyrone Pedrena, A.C. No. 9401, October 22, 2013.
Here are select September 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Attorney’s Fees. The case initially concerned the execution of a final decision with the Court of Appeals in a labor litigation. Petitioner Malvar, however, entered into a compromise agreement with the respondents pending appeal without informing her counsel. Malvar’s counsel filed a Motion to Intervene to Protect Attorney’s Rights.
The Supreme Court, on considerations of equity and fairness, disapproved of the tendencies of clients compromising their cases behind the backs of their attorneys for the purpose of unreasonably reducing or completely setting to naught the stipulated contingent fees. Thus, the Court granted the Motion for Intervention to Protect Attorney’s Rights as a measure of protecting the Intervenor’s right to his stipulated professional fees. The Court did so in the interest of protecting the rights of the practicing Bar rendering professional services on contingent fee basis.
Although the compromise agreement was still approved by the Court, the payment of the counsel’s adequate and reasonable compensation could not be annulled by the settlement of the litigation without the counsel’s participation and conformity. He remains entitled to the compensation, and his rights are safeguarded by the Court because its members are officers of the Court who are as entitled to judicial protection against injustice or imposition of fraud committed by the client as much as the client is against their abuses as her counsel. In other words, the duty of the Court is not only to ensure that the attorney acts in a proper and lawful manner, but also to see to it that the attorney is paid his just fees. Even if the compensation of the attorney is dependent only on winning the litigation, the subsequent withdrawal of the case upon the client’s initiative would not deprive the attorney of the legitimate compensation for professional services rendered. Czarina T. Malvar v. Kraft Foods Phils., Inc., et al., G.R. No. 183952, September 9, 2013.
Here are select July 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; Attorney-client relationship. Respondent Atty. Ramon SG Cabanes, Jr. was charged for gross negligence in violation of Canon 17, and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Supreme Court held him guilty of gross negligence. The relationship between an attorney and his client is one imbued with utmost trust and confidence. In this light, clients are led to expect that lawyers would be ever-mindful of their cause and accordingly exercise the required degree of diligence in handling their affairs. Verily, a lawyer is expected to maintain at all times a high standard of legal proficiency, and to devote his full attention, skill, and competence to the case, regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. A lawyer’s duty of competence and diligence includes not merely reviewing the cases entrusted to the counsel’s care or giving sound legal advice, but also consists of properly representing the client before any court or tribunal, attending scheduled hearings or conferences, preparing and filing the required pleadings, prosecuting the handled cases with reasonable dispatch, and urging their termination without waiting for the client or the court to prod him or her to do so. While such negligence or carelessness is incapable of exact formulation, the Court has consistently held that the lawyer’s mere failure to perform the obligations due his client is per se a violation. Thus, the court suspended respondent for six (6) months. Josefina Caranza Vda de Saldivar v. Atty. Ramon SG Cabanes, Jr., A.C. No. 7749, July 8, 2013
Here are select June 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; the failure to file a brief resulting in the dismissal of an appeal constitutes inexcusable negligence. In Dalisay Capili v. Atty. Alfredo L. Bentulan, the Court held that the failure to file a brief resulting in the dismissal of an appeal constitutes inexcusable negligence. In this case, the Court cannot accept as an excuse the alleged lapse committed by his client in failing to provide him a copy of the case records.
In the first place, securing a copy of the case records was within Atty. San Juan’s control and is a task that the lawyer undertakes.
Second, Atty. San Juan, unlike his client, knows or should have known, that filing an appellant’s brief within the reglementary period is critical in the perfection of an appeal. The preparation and the filing of the appellant’s brief are matters of procedure that fully fell within the exclusive control and responsibility of Atty. San Juan. It was incumbent upon him to execute all acts and procedures necessary and incidental to the perfection of his client’s appeal.
Third, Atty. San Juan lacked candor in dealing with his client. He omitted to inform Tomas of the progress of his appeal with the Court of Appeals. Worse, he did not disclose to Tomas the real reason for the Court of Appeal’s dismissal of the appeal. Neither did Atty. San Juan file a motion for reconsideration, or otherwise resort to available legal remedies that might have protected his client’s interest.
Here are select April 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; practice of law; notary. The practice of law is imbued with public interest and “a lawyer owes substantial duties not only to his client, but also to his brethren in the profession, to the courts, and to the nation, and takes part in one of the most important functions of the State – the administration of justice – as an officer of the court.” Accordingly, ‘”lawyers are bound to maintain not only a high standard of legal proficiency, but also of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing.”
Similarly, the duties of notaries public are dictated by public policy and impressed with public interest. “Notarization is not a routinary, meaningless act, for notarization converts a private document to a public instrument, making it admissible in evidence without the necessity of preliminary proof of its authenticity and due execution.”
In misrepresenting himself as a notary public, respondent exposed party-litigants, courts, other lawyers and the general public to the perils of ordinary documents posing as public instruments. Respondent committed acts of deceit and falsehood in open violation of the explicit pronouncements of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Evidently, respondent’s conduct falls miserably short of the high standards of morality, honesty, integrity and fair dealing required from lawyers. Thus, he should be sanctioned. Efigenia M. Tenoso vs. Atty. Anselmo S. Echanez. A.C. No. 8384. April 11, 2013