February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected February 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Administrative proceedings; compromise agreements. The compromise agreement between complainant and respondent, or the fact that complainant already forgave respondent, does not necessarily warrant the dismissal of the administrative case. Three reasons justify the continuation of the administrative matter despite the compromise agreement or the forgiveness. One, the Court’s disciplinary authority is not dependent on or cannot be frustrated by the private arrangements entered into by the parties; otherwise, the prompt and fair administration of justice, as well as the discipline of court personnel, will be undermined. Two, public interest is at stake in the conduct and actuations of the officials and employees of the Judiciary. Accordingly, the efforts of the Court in improving the delivery of justice to the people should not be frustrated and put to naught by any private arrangements between the parties. And, three, the Court’s interest in the affairs of the Judiciary is a paramount concern that bows to no limits. Benigno B. Reas v. Carlos M. Relacion, A.M. No. P-05-2095. February 9, 2011.

Administrative Proceedings; substantial evidence. Bayani was charged with dishonesty for failure to disclose in her Personal Data Sheet that she was previously admonished in an administrative case. Bayani invoked good faith as her defense. The Court ruled that while her defense of good faith may be difficult to prove as clearly it is a question of intention, a state of mind, erroneous judgment on the part of Bayani does not, however, necessarily connote the existence of bad faith, malice, or an intention to defraud. In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions.  Substantial evidence is defined as relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Thus, after much consideration of the facts and circumstances, while the Court has not shied away in imposing the strictest penalty to erring employees, neither can it think and rule unreasonably in determining whether an employee deserves disciplinary sanction. Bayani was admonished and warned that a repetition of the same or similar offense will warrant the imposition of a mere severe penalty. Re: Anonymous Complaint against Ms. Hermogena F. Bayani for Dishonesty, A.M. No. 2007-22-SC. February 1, 2011.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected September 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; misconduct. Respondent (lawyer) was ordered to reimburse his client Php16,300.00.  Nine years after the directive was made, he effected payment.  Respondent’s belated “compliance” with the order glaringly speaks of his lack of candor, of his dishonesty, if not defiance of Court orders, qualities that do not endear him to the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers. The lack of any sufficient justification or explanation for the nine-year delay in complying with the Resolutions betrays a clear and contumacious disregard for the lawful orders of this Court. Such disrespect constitutes a clear violation of the lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. Leonard W. Richards vs. Patricio A. Asoy, A.C. No. 2655, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; conduct prejudicial to best interest of the service. This case filed by Argoso against Regalado  involves money received by Regalado from an interested  party to implement a writ of execution.  Regalado should not have received money from Argoso for his transportation to Daet, without previously submitting his expenses for the court’s approval.  Regalado’s admission that he received money without complying with the proper procedure in enforcing writs of execution, made him guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Levi M. Agroso vs. Achilles Andrew Regalado II, etc., A.M. No. P-09-2735, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty. Respondent (clerk of court) failed to regularly submit monthly reports of collections and deposits, as required by SC Circular No. 32-93, and official receipts and other documents, despite the Court’s repeated orders.  The failure to remit the funds in due time amounts to dishonesty and grave misconduct, which the Court cannot tolerate for they diminish the people’s faith in the judiciary.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Marcela V. Santos, Clerk of Court II etc., A.M. No. P-06-2287, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty etc. Fernandez deserves to be sanctioned.  Her habitual tardiness and absenteeism, coupled with her submission of a falsified document to cover up some of her absences, do not speak well of her fitness for employment in the public service, especially in the judiciary.  We cannot ignore the gross dishonesty involved in her submission of a falsified document to cover up several unauthorized absences.   Isabel D. Marquez vs. Jocelyn C. Fernandez, A.M. No. P-07-2358, October 19, 2010.

Court personnel; gross misconduct. On several instances, Abellanosa demanded and received various sums of money from party-litigants in cases pending before the RTC of Makati, Branch 137.  Also, the Order of the Makati RTC Branch 137 was published in the Taliba newspaper, but it did not go through the mandated procedure for distribution of judicial notices or orders by raffle to qualified newspapers or periodicals under P.D. No. 1079.  Abellanosa’s acts of soliciting money from litigants to facilitate the publication of their petitions or orders of the court clearly manifested her desire to achieve personal gain and constitutes gross misconduct which is deplorable. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino vs. Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc./Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc. vs. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino/Jessica B. Abellanosa etc. vs. Rowena L. Ramos, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2472/A.M. No. RTJ-08-2106/A.M. No. P-08-2420, October 19, 2010.

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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected August 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; gross discourtesy. When Milagros finally met respondent on September 30, 2008 [in order to collect on his debt to her], respondent, in the presence of several others, told her “Eh kung sabihin ko na sugar mommy kita,” adding that “Nagpapakantot ka naman sa akin.” The Court finds that respondent is indeed guilty of gross discourtesy amounting to conduct unbecoming of a court employee.  By such violation, respondent failed to live up to his oath of office as member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and violated Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Court has consistently been reminding officials and employees of the Judiciary that their conduct or behavior is circumscribed with a heavy burden of responsibility which, at all times, should be characterized by, among other things, strict propriety and decorum. As such, they should not use abusive, offensive, scandalous, menacing and improper language. Their every act or word should be marked by prudence, restraint, courtesy and dignity. Aside from violating Rule 7.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, respondent appears to have also violated Rule 8.01 of the same Code. Complaints of Mrs. Milagros Lee & Samantha Lee against Atty. Gil Luisito R. Capito, A.M. No. 2008-19-SC. August 18, 2010

Attorney; mistake binding on client. A client is generally bound by the mistakes of his lawyer; otherwise, there would never be an end to a litigation as long as a new counsel could be employed, and who could then allege and show that the preceding counsel had not been sufficiently diligent or experienced or learned. The legal profession demands of a lawyer that degree of vigilance and attention expected of a good father of a family; such lawyer should adopt the norm of practice expected of men of good intentions.  Moreover, a lawyer owes it to himself and to his clients to adopt an efficient and orderly system of keeping track of the developments in his cases, and should be knowledgeable of the remedies appropriate to his cases. National Tobacco Administration vs. Daniel Castillo, G.R. No. 154124,August 13, 2010.

Attorney; mistake of counsel. Granting that their counsel made a mistake in entering into such stipulations, such procedural error unfortunately bound them.  The Court has consistently held that the mistake or negligence of a counsel in the area of procedural technique binds the client unless such mistake or negligence of counsel is so gross or palpable that would require the courts to step in and accord relief to the client who suffered thereby.  Without this doctrinal rule, there would never be an end to a suit so long as a new counsel could be employed to allege and show that the prior counsel had not been sufficiently diligent, experienced, or learned. Gilbert Urma, et al. vs. Hon. Orlando Beltran, et al., G.R. No. 180836, August 8, 2010.

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July 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected July 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; attorney’s fees. The issue of the reasonable legal fees due to respondent still needs to be resolved in a trial on the merits with the following integral sub-issues: (1) the reasonableness of the 10% contingent fee given that the recovery of Tiwi’s share [in unpaid realty taxes] was not solely attributable to the legal services rendered by respondent, (2) the nature, extent of legal work, and significance of the cases allegedly handled by respondent which reasonably contributed, directly or indirectly, to the recovery of Tiwi’s share, and (3) the relative benefit derived by Tiwi from the services rendered by respondent. The amount of reasonable attorney’s fees finally determined by the trial court should be without legal interest in line with well-settled jurisprudence. Municipality of Tiwi, represented by Hon. Mayor Jaime C. Villanueva and Sangguniang Bayan of Tiwi Vs. Antonio B. Betito, G.R. No. 171873, July 9, 2010.

Attorney; engagement of private counsel by GOCC. In Phividec Industrial Authority v. Capitol Steel Corporation, we listed three (3) indispensable conditions before a GOCC can hire a private lawyer: (1) private counsel can only be hired in exceptional cases; (2) the GOCC must first secure the written conformity and acquiescence of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel, as the case may be; and (3) the written concurrence of the COA must also be secured.  Failure to comply with all three conditions would constitute appearance without authority.  A lawyer appearing after his authority as counsel had expired is also appearance without authority.  Rey Vargas, et al. vs. Atty. Michael Ignes, et al., A.C. No. 8096, July 5, 2010.

Attorney; engagement of private counsel by LGU. Pursuant to this provision [Section 444(b)(1)(vi) of the LGC], the municipal mayor is required to secure the prior authorization of the Sangguniang Bayan before entering into a contract on behalf of the municipality. In the instant case, the Sangguniang Bayan of Tiwi unanimously passed Resolution No. 15-92 authorizing Mayor Corral to hire a lawyer of her choice to represent the interest of Tiwi in the execution of this Court’s Decision in National Power Corporation v. Province of Albay. The above-quoted authority necessarily carried with it the power to negotiate, execute and sign on behalf of Tiwi the Contract of Legal Services. Municipality of Tiwi, represented by Hon. Mayor Jaime C. Villanueva and Sangguniang Bayan of Tiwi Vs. Antonio B. Betito, G.R. No. 171873, July 9, 2010.

Attorney; gross misconduct. In Lao v. Medel, we held that the deliberate failure to pay just debts and the issuance of worthless checks constitute gross misconduct for which a lawyer may be sanctioned with one-year suspension from the practice of law. However, in this case, we deem it reasonable to affirm the sanction imposed by the IBP-CBD, i.e., Atty. Valerio was ordered suspended from the practice of law for two (2) years, because, aside from issuing worthless checks and failing to pay her debts, she has also shown wanton disregard of the IBP’s and Court Orders in the course of the proceedings. A-1 Financial Services, Inc. vs. Atty. Laarni N. Valerio, A.C. No. 8390, July 2, 2010.

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