January 2014 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are select January 2014 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; Contingent Fee. Spouses Cadavedo hired Atty. Lacaya on a contingency basis. The Supreme Court held that spouses Cadavedo and Atty. Lacaya agreed on a contingent fee of ₱2,000.00 and not, as asserted by the latter, one-half of the subject lot.  The stipulation contained in the amended complaint filed by Atty. Lacaya clearly stated that the spouses Cadavedo hired the former on a contingency basis; the Spouses Cadavedo undertook to pay their lawyer ₱2,000.00 as attorney’s fees should the case be decided in their favor. Granting arguendo that the spouses Cadavedo and Atty. Lacaya indeed entered into an oral contingent fee agreement securing to the latter one-half of the subject lot, the agreement is void. The agreement is champertous and is contrary to public policy. Any agreement by a lawyer to “conduct the litigation in his own account, to pay the expenses thereof or to save his client therefrom and to receive as his fee a portion of the proceeds of the judgment is obnoxious to the law.” The rule of the profession that forbids a lawyer from contracting with his client for part of the thing in litigation in exchange for conducting the case at the lawyer’s expense is designed to prevent the lawyer from acquiring an interest between him and his client.  The Conjugal Partnership of the Spouses Vicente Cadavedo and Benita Arcoy-Cadavedo (both deceased), substituted by their Heirs, namely: Herminia, Pastora, Heirs of Fructiosa, Heirs of Raquel, Evangeline, Vicente, Jr., and Armand, all surnamed Cadavedo, G.R. No. 173188. January 15, 2014.

Attorney; Disbarment; Deceitful and Dishonest Conduct. A Complaint for Disbarment was filed against Atty. Solidum, Jr. The Supreme Court held that Atty. Solidum, Jr. violated Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Conduct, as used in the Rule, is not confined to the performance of a lawyer’s professional duties. A lawyer may be disciplined for misconduct committed either in his professional or private capacity. The test is whether his conduct shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor, or whether it renders him unworthy to continue as an officer of the court. The Supreme Court found Atty. Solidum, Jr. guilty of engaging in dishonest and deceitful conduct, both in his professional capacity with respect to his client, Presbitero, and in his private capacity with respect to complainant Navarro.  Both Presbitero and Navarro allowed Atty. Solidum, Jr. to draft the terms of the loan agreements. Atty. Solidum, Jr. drafted the MOAs knowing that the interest rates were exorbitant. Later, using his knowledge of the law, he assailed the validity of the same MOAs he prepared. He issued checks that were drawn from his son’s account whose name was similar to his without informing complainants.  Further, there is nothing in the records that will show that he paid or undertook to pay the loans he obtained from complainants. The fiduciary nature of the relationship between the counsel and his client imposes on the lawyer the duty to account for the money or property collected or received for or from his client. Atty. Solidum, Jr. failed to fulfill this duty. Natividad P. Navarro and Hilda S. Presbitero v. Atty. Ivan M. Solidum, Jr., A.C. No. 9872, January 28, 2014.

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