November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal Ethics

Here are selected November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on legal ethics:

Interest;  attorney’s fees. The imposition of any interest, as prayed for in this petition, on any amount payable to petitioners is unwarranted. Contracts for attorney’s services are unlike any other contracts for the payment of compensation for any other services which allow the imposition of interest in case of delay under the provisions of the Civil Code. The practice of law is a profession, not a moneymaking venture. Jose Feliciano Loy, et al. vs. San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-Philippine Transport and General Workers Organization (SMCEU-PTGWO), et al., G.R. No. 164886. November 24, 2009

Misappropriation. Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court provides for the disbarment or suspension of a lawyer for the following: (1) deceit; (2) malpractice; (3) gross misconduct in office; (4) grossly immoral conduct; (5) conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude; (6) violation of the lawyer’s oath; (7) willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; and (8) willfully appearing as an attorney for a party without authority to do so.

Every lawyer has the responsibility to protect and advance the interests of his client such that he must promptly account for whatever money or property his client may have entrusted to him. As a mere trustee of said money or property, he must hold them separate from that of his own and make sure that they are used for their intended purpose. If not used, he must return the money or property immediately to his client upon demand, otherwise the lawyer shall be presumed to have misappropriated the same in violation of the trust reposed on him. A lawyer’s conversion of funds entrusted to him is a gross violation of professional ethics.

Here, respondent Mijares chose not to be heard on his evidence. Technically, the only evidence on record that the Court can consider is the University’s evidence that he got P500,000.00 from complainant for expenses in facilitating and processing its title application; that he undertook to return the money if he did not succeed in his purpose; that he falsely claimed having obtained the MMDA approval of the application; and that he nonetheless refused to return the money despite repeated demands. Unopposed, this evidence supports the finding of guilt of the Investigating Commissioner and the IBP Board of Governors.  Arellano University, Inc. vs. Atty. Leovigildo H. Mijares III, A.C. No. 8380, November 20, 2009.