Case Digest @ 75 Legal Ethics
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Case Digest on Cleto Docena vs. Atty. Dominador Q. Limon (295 SCRA 262) – Lawyer Unlawful Conduct Facts: Respondent was petitioner’s lawyer in a civil case. During that case, he asked the petitioners to post a supersedeas bond to stay execution of the appealed decision. Petitioners forwarded the money to Limon. Later, the case was decided in their favor. They were unable to recover the money because the clerk of court said no such bond had ever been filed. IBP suspended him for one year. Hence this petition. Held: Disbarred (see Canon 1.01 and 16.01). Respondent’s allegation that the money was payment of his fees was overcome by other evidence. The law is not a trade nor craft but a profession. Its basic ideal is to render public service and to secure justice for those who seek its aid. If it has to remain an honorable profession and attain its basic ideal, lawyers should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, by their lives, accord continuing fidelity to them. By extorting money from his client through deceit, Limon has sullied the integrity of his brethren in the law and has indirectly eroded the people’s confidence in the judicial system. He is disbarred for immoral, deceitful and unlawful conduct. Case Digest on Victor Nunga v. Atty. Verancio Viray (306 SCRA 487) Lawyer Unlawful Conduct Facts: N accused V of notarizing documents without a commission. It appears that in 1987 and 1991 he notarized deeds of sale of property between the bank he works for and his minor son. At those times, he was not commissioned as a notary public. Held: SUSPENDED. Notarization is invested with public interest because3 it converts a private document into a public one. Notarizing without commission is a violation of the lawyer’s oath to obey the laws (the Notarial Law) and by making it appear that he is so authorized is a deliberate falsehood which violates the lawyer’s oath and Rule 1.01 (CPR) that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Case Digest on Atty. Prudencio Penticostes v. Prosecutor Diosdado Ibañez (304 SCRA 281) Lawyer Unlawful Conduct Facts: Pascual was sued for non-remittance of SSS benefits. She gave the contested amount to respondent, who was supposed to forward the same to the SSS and drop the charges. Respondent did not forward the amount. He only remitted the amount after his complaint for misconduct was filed with the IBP. Held: REPRIMANDED. A high sense of morality, honesty and fair dealing is expected and required of a member of the bar. Rule 1.01 provides that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. While Pascual may not strictly be considered a client of respondent, the rules relating to a lawyer’s handling of funds of a client is still applicable, thus, lawyers are bound to promptly account for money or property received by them on behalf of their clients and failure to do so constitutes professional misconduct. Also, even if he was acting as a prosecutor, Canon 6 provides that these canons shall apply to lawyers in government service in the discharge of their official tasks. Case Digest on Renato S. Ong & Francia N. Ong v. Court of Appeals, Inland Trailways, Inc. & Philtranco Service Enterprise, Inc. (301 SCRA 387) Attorney’s Fees Facts: Renato Ong was injured during a vehicular collision. He was awarded damages by the trial court. On appeal, the CA, the awards for actual damages, moral damages & attorney’s fees were reduced because (1) the cost & feasibility of corrective surgery had not been adduced in evidence, (2) the document relied upon to prove actual damages was not formally offered in evidence and (3) no evidence but the bare assertion of counsel was put forward to prove damages for unearned income. Held: Attorney’s fees is an indemnity for damages ordered by a court to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party, based on any of the cases authorized by law. It is payable not to the lawyer but to the client, unless the 2 have agreed that the award shall pertain to the lawyer as additional compensation or as part thereof. The Court has established a set of standards in fixing the amount of attorney’s fees. Counsel’s performance, however, does not justify the award of 25 percent attorney’s fees. The nature of the case was not exceptionally difficult, and his handling of the case was sorely inadequate, as shown by his failure to follow elementary norms of civil procedure & evidence. It is well-settled that such award is addressed to sound judicial discretion and subject to judicial control. Case Digest on Teodulfo B. Basas vs. Atty. Miguel I. Icawat (Duty to Client/Accounting of Client’s Money/Negligence) Facts: Atty. Miguel Icawat was the lawyer for Teodulfo Basas and some other laborers in their complaint against their employer. The NLRC rendered an adverse decision. Basas and his fellow workers, however, insisted that they appeal the decision. Atty. Icawat, however, failed to file the required memorandum of appeal. Basas filed an administrative complaint, also alleging that Atty. Icawat issued a receipt for an amount less than that which they had paid him. Held: GUILTY. Respondent’s failure to file the memorandum of appeal required by the NLRC Rules of Procedure reveals his poor grasp of labor law. Respondent practically admitted that he did not file the memorandum. His failure to file the memorandum clearly prejudiced the interests of his clients. Respondent manifestly fell short of the diligence required of his profession, in violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. For his failure to issue the proper receipt for the money he received from his clients, respondent also violated Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. The Court fined Atty. Icawat in the amount of PhP 500, with a warning that a repetition of the same offense or a similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely. Case Digest In Re: Vicente Y. Bayani (Duty to the Court/Negligence of a Lawyer) Facts: Atty. Vicente Bayani was the lawyer for the appellant in a criminal case. He failed to submit his proof of service in his appellant’s brief which subsequently caused the inability of the appellee to file his own brief. The IBP was order to investigate on the matter and despite repeated notices, Bayani failed to submit the proof of service and his answer to the IBP’s query. Hence, this administrative complaint. Held: GUILTY. Atty. Bayani’s failure to submit proof of service of appellant’s brief and his failure to submit the required comment manifest willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the Supreme Court, a clear violation of the canons of professional ethics. It appears that Atty. Bayani has fallen short of the circumspection required of a member of the Bar. A counsel must always remember that his actions or omissions are binding on his clients. A lawyer owes his client the exercise of utmost prudence and capability in that representation. Further, lawyers are expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure and anyone who deals with them has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to his client’s cause. Having been remiss in his duty to the Court and to the Bar, Atty. Bayani was suspended from the practice of law for 3 months and until the time he complies with the Order of the Supreme Court to submit the required proof of service. Case Digest on Office of the Court Administrator vs. (Judge) Florentino S. Barron (297 SCRA 376) Impropriety Facts: Judge Barron was arrested during an entrapment operation when he tried to solicit bribes from an American national in exchange for ruling in the latter’s favor in a pending case. Held: Judge dismissed. A judge should always be a symbol of rectitude and propriety, comporting himself in a manner that will raise no doubt whatsoever about his honesty. The conduct of respondent shows that he can be influenced by monetary considerations. His act of demanding and receiving money
from a party-litigant constitutes serious misconduct in office. It is this kind of gross and flaunting misconduct, no matter how nominal the amount involved, which erodes the respect for the law and the courts. Case Digest on Sarah B. Vedana vs. Judge Eudarlo B. Valencia (295 SCRA 1) Impropriety Facts: Complainant is the court interpreter and a relative of respondent judge. She claims that he kissed and fondled her when she went to his sala to inform him that the cases for the day were ready for trial. Held: Respondent guilty of violating Canons 2, 3 and 22 of the Code of Judicial Ethics. The Code mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his performance of his judicial duties, but also to his behavior outside his sala and as a private individual. A public official is also judged by his private morals. A judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, must behave with propriety at all times. A judge’s official life can not simply be detached or separated from his personal existence. Case Digest on Corazon T. Reontoy v. Atty. Liberato R. Ibadlit (302 SCRA 604) Negligence of Counsel Facts: On January 28, 1998 the SC found Ibadlit administratively liable and suspended him from the practice of law for 1 year for failing to appeal within the reglementary period the decision rendered against his client. His reason was, an appeal would only be futile. SC declared that it was highly improper for him to have adopted such opinion. SC said that a lawyer was without authority to waive his client’s right to appeal and that his failure to appeal within the reglementary period constituted negligence and malpractice, proscribed by Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides “(a) lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.” This is a motion for reconsideration. Held: Suspension lowered to 2 months – his arguments are partly persuasive, he believed in good faith that his client’s case was weak and that she accepted his explanation that the adverse decision was not worth appealing anymore. Besides, it was only several years later that she complained when no more relief was available to her. Also, complainant had reasonable opportunity to hire another counsel for a second opinion whether to appeal from the judgment or file a petition for relief, that he did not commit to handle his client’s case on appeal and that the testimonies of complainant and her brother were unpersuasive. This is also his first offense. Case Digest on People of the Philippines v. Sevilleno ( 304 SCRA 519) Negligence of Counsel Facts: In a criminal case for rape with homicide, the accused pleaded guilty. However, the 3 PAO lawyers assigned as counsel de officio did not perform their duty. The first did not advise his client of the consequences of pleading guilty, the second left the courtroom during trial and thus did not cross-examine the prosecution witnesses. The third postponed the presentation of evidence for the defense, and when he did appear, he said he would rely solely on the plea in the mistaken belief that it would lower the penalty to reclusion perpetua. Held: Case remanded. Canon 18 required every lawyer to serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He must not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in this regard renders him administratively liable. In this case, the defense lawyers did not protect, much less uphold, the fundamental rights of the accused. N.B. Case remanded because of error by the judge in not using searching questions to find if the plea was made knowingly. Case Digest on Rodolfo P. Velasquez v. CA & PCIB (GR No. 124049, June 30, 1999) Negligence of Counsel Facts: As an incident in the main case, V appointed his counsel as attorney-in-fact to represent him at the pre-trial. Counsel failed to appear, hence V was declared in default. The order of default was received by counsel but no steps were taken to have it lifted or set aside. Held: Binding on V. V was also guilty of negli8gence because after making the special power of attorney, he went abroad and paid no further attention to the case until he received the decision. Thus, no FAME which will warrant a lifting of the order. Case Digest on Regalado Daroy vs. Esteban Abecia Lawyer on Property Under Litigation Facts: Daroy was plaintiff in a forcible entry case. He hired Abecia as his lawyer and won. To satisfy the award for damages, a parcel of land of the defendant was sold to Daroy at an execution sale. The land was then sold to Daroy’s relative, who then sold it to Abecia’s wife. He now claims that these sales are void because Abecia forged his signature on the deeds of sale. IBP disbarred Abecia. Held: Reversed. The evidence shows that Daroy was a party to the sale at the time ot was made and did not “discover” it 9 years later as he claimed. He was not defrauded