October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on legal and judicial ethics:

Lawyers

Confidential information. It is settled that the mere relation of attorney and client does not raise a presumption of confidentiality. The client must intend the communication to be confidential. Since the proposed amendments to the by-laws must be approved by at least a majority of the stockholders, and copies of the amended by-laws must be filed with the SEC, the information could not have been intended to be confidential. Thus, the disclosure made by respondent during the stockholders’ meeting could not be considered a violation of his client’s secrets and confidence within the contemplation of Canon 21 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.  Rebecca J. Palm vs. Atty. Felipe Iledan, Jr., A.C. No. 8242, October 2, 2009.

Conflict of interest. In Quiambao v. Bamba, the Court enumerated various tests to determine conflict of interests. One test of inconsistency of interests is whether the lawyer will be asked to use against his former client any confidential information acquired through their connection or previous employment. The Court has ruled that what a lawyer owes his former client is to maintain inviolate the client’s confidence or to refrain from doing anything which will injuriously affect him in any matter in which he previously represented him.

There is no conflict of interest when respondent represented Soledad in a case filed by Comtech. The case where respondent represents Soledad is an Estafa case filed by Comtech against its former officer. There was nothing in the records that would show that respondent used against Comtech any confidential information acquired while he was still Comtech’s retained counsel. Further, respondent made the representation after the termination of his retainer agreement with Comtech. A lawyer’s immutable duty to a former client does not cover transactions that occurred beyond the lawyer’s employment with the client. The intent of the law is to impose upon the lawyer the duty to protect the client’s interests only on matters that he previously handled for the former client and not for matters that arose after the lawyer-client relationship has terminated.  Rebecca J. Palm vs. Atty. Felipe Iledan, Jr., A.C. No. 8242, October 2, 2009.

Indirect contempt. It is reasonable to conclude that the two lawyers crafted the complaint and incorporated therein all the unfounded accusations against the respondent in order to conceal their inadequacies in the handling of their client’s cases. To say the least, the complaint was most unfair to the respondent who, as the record shows, was simply keeping faith with her avowed objective of expediting the proceedings in her court by, among other measures, requiring lawyers to be prepared at all times and to be fair and candid in their dealings with the court.  Juan Pablo P. Bondoc vs. Judge Divina Luz P. Aquino-Simbulan, etc., A.M. No. RTJ-09-2204, October 26, 2009.

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