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Case Digest @ 75 Legal Ethics

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 theappealed decision. Petitioners forwarded the money to Limon. Later, the case was decided in their favor. They were unable to recover the money becausethe 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 lawis 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 anhonorable profession and attain its basic ideal, lawyers should not only master its tenets and principles but should also, by their lives, accord continuingfidelity 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 thepeople’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 thebank 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 isa 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 violatesthe 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 theSSS 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 relatingto 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 shallapply 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 actualdamages, moral damages & attorney’s fees were reduced because (1) the cost & feasibility of corrective surgery had not been adduced in evidence, (2) thedocument relied upon to prove actual damages was not formally offered in evidence and (3) no evidence but the bare assertion of counsel was put forwardto 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 casesauthorized 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 additionalcompensation 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 sorelyinadequate, 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 anadverse decision. Basas and his fellow workers, however, insisted that they appeal the decision. Atty. Icawat, however, failed to file the requiredmemorandum of appeal. Basas filed an administrative complaint, also alleging that Atty. Icawat issued a receipt for an amount less than that which they hadpaid 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, whichmandates 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 fromhis clients, respondent also violated Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that a lawyer shall account for all money or propertycollected 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 asimilar 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 whichsubsequently caused the inability of the appellee to file his own brief. The IBP was order to investigate on the matter and despite repeated notices, Bayanifailed 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 willfuldisobedience 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 awhole-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 lawfor 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 thelatter’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
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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 toinform 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 awhiff 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. Apublic official is also judged by his private morals. A judge, in order to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, mustbehave 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 thereglementary period the decision rendered against his client. His reason was, an appeal would only be futile. SC declared that it was highly improper for himto 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 thereglementary 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 sheaccepted his explanation that the adverse decision was not worth appealing anymore. Besides, it was only several years later that she complained when nomore 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 wereunpersuasive. 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 performtheir 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-examinethe prosecution witnesses. The third postponed the presentation of evidence for the defense, and when he did appear, he said he would rely solely on theplea 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 legalmatter entrusted to him, and his negligence in this regard renders him administratively liable. In this case, the defense lawyers did not protect, much lessuphold, 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 wasdeclared 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 thecase 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 thedefendant 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 thesesales 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. Hewas not defrauded <real issueà the parties thought that because the land had been acquired at a public sale to satisfy a judgment in a case in whichrespondent was complainant’s counsel, the latter could not acquire the land. The parties made this arrangement to circumvent Art. 1491 of the Civil Codewhich prevents lawyers from acquiring property and rights that may be the object of any litigation in which they may take by virtue of their profession. Theprohibition in Art. 1491 does not apply to the sale of a parcel of land acquired by a client to satisfy a judgment in his favor, to his attorney was not the subjectof the litigation. While judges, prosecuting attorneys, and others connected with the administration of justice are prohibited from acquiring “property or rightsin litigation or levied upon in execution” the prohibition with respect to attorneys in the case extends only to “property and rights that may be the object of anylitigation in which they may take part by virtue of their profession.”
Case Digest on Ruferto Gutierrez and Maritess Passion vs. Judge Estanislao S. Belan (294 SCRA 1) Lawyer Qualifications
Facts: Concerned citizens of Binan Laguna charged respondent MTC judge with conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. They claim hecommitted perjury for failure to disclose a previous charge for two criminal offenses in his written application to the JBC.Held: Judge is dismissed. Every prospective appointee to the judiciary must apprise the appointing authority of every matter bearing on his fitness fo judicial office, including such circumstances as may reflect on his integrity and probity. These are qualifications specifically required of appointees to the judiciary by Article VIII, Sec. 7(3) of the Constitution. The act of concealing the two criminal cases against him is a clear proof of his lack of the saidqualification and renders him unworthy to sit as a judge- even if he was ultimately acquitted. He is not being chastened for having had a pending criminalcase at the time of his application for a judicial position but for his dishonesty and misrepresentation in the process of seeking that office.
Case Digest on Re: Leaves of Absence Without Approval of Judge Eric T Calderon, Municipal Trial Court Judge of Calumpit, Bulacan (302 SCRA92) Gross Misconduct
Facts: Administrative case against Judge C for incurring leaves of absence for an almost straight period of 3 years. His excuse is that he was suffering froma lingering illness of malignant hypertension. However, despite the fact that medical certificates were presented in his favor, most were made by his personaldoctor (an orthopedic doctor). Also, the tests given by the Court physician contradict the diagnosis given by his doctor.
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Held: Guilty of gross misconduct and abandonment of office, judge dismissed. Judge C should have been more conscious of his court duties, as well asmore cautious of his actuations, than he has shown in the performance of his functions and the discharge of his responsibilities to the Court and thecitizenry. Further, he should have been aware that, in frequently leaving his station, he has caused great disservice to many litigants and has denied themspeedy justice. From the record it could be fairly concluded that he had habitually abandoned his sala for no justifiable excuse at all. The doctrine of 
res ipsaloquitor 
, that the Court may impose its authority upon erring judges whose actuations, on their face, would show gross incompetence, ignorance of the law,or misconduct, is patently applicable to the instant case.
Case Digest on Republic of the Philippines vs. Court of Appeals (296 SCRA 171) Gross Misconduct
Facts: Petitioner filed a case for recission against the Quetulios and Abadillas alleging that the former sold the land that had already been expropriated. TheQuetulios did not file an answer, but at the hearing on the motion for default, co-defendant Hernando was permitted by the judge to appear as counsel for the defendants and file an answer.Held: Case reinstated. Evidently, when respondent Hernando appeared before the trial court and filed the Answer/Motion to dismiss, he was still under suspension from the practice of law. A suspended lawyer, during his suspension, is certainly prohibited from engaging in the practice of law, and if he doesso, he may be disbarred. The reason is that, his continuing to practice the profession during his suspension constitutes a gross misconduct and a willfuldisregard of the suspension order, which should be obeyed though how erroneous it may be until set aside.
Case Digest on Flaviano B. Cortes v. Judge Emerito M. Agcaoili (249 SCRA 423) Impropriety
Facts: Respondent was charged with impropriety and gross ignorance of the law. In a case for illegal logging, he dismissed the case and returned illegallycut timber to the defendants because the search warrant was invalid. He was also seen in eating and drinking in the company of said defendants, and thissupposedly influenced his decision.Held: Judge Agcaoili is fined and suspended. Respondent erred in returning the seized articles – even though the warrant was invalid, illegal articles(illegally cut lumber) are not returned to the possessor. He also violated Canon 2, Rule 2.01 of the Code of Judicial Ethics – i.e. to avoid impropriety or evenor even the appearance of impropriety. Even though it was not proven that he was influenced by the defendants (the dismissal was proper), he should nothave fraternized with litigants who had a pending case before him. To do so erodes public confidence in the integrity and independence of the judiciary. A judge must avoid even the semblance of impropriety.
Case Digest on Carlos Dionisio v. Hon. Zosimo V. Escano (302 SCRA 411) Impropriety
Facts: E posted an advertisement for waitresses and singers to work at his restaurant at the RTC bulletin board. He also conducted interviews for this in hissala. He was later caught when a reporter from “Hoy Gising!” taped an interview which revealed that he intended to operate a drinking pub with scantily cladwaitresses.Held: SUSPENDED. Rules 2.00, 5.02 and 5.03 provide that a judge should avoid impropriety and even the appearance of impropriety. He should also refrainfrom financial and business dealings that tend to reflect adversely on the court’s impartiality, interfere with the proper performance of judicial activities, or increase involvement with lawyers and litigants. He should also manage financial interests so as to minimize the number of cases giving grounds for disqualification. Finally, the halls of justice should not be used for unrelated purposes.
Case Digest on Benalfre J. Galang v. Judge Abelardo H. Santos (307 SCRA 582) Impropriety
Facts: S was a judge and the publisher/columnist for a tabloid; he was also a writer for another paper. G charges him with using his columns to ventilate hisviews. He has repeatedly used insulting and inflammatory language against the governor and the provincial prosecutor and legal adviser.Held: JUDGE DISMISSED. While S has the right to free speech, his writing of vicious editorials compromise his duties as judge in the impartialadministration of justice. They reflect both on his office and on the officers he ridicules. The personal behavior of a judge in his professional and everyday lifeshould be free from the appearance of impropriety. Improper conduct erodes the public confidence in the judiciary.
Case Digest on Benjamin Sia Lao vs. Hon. Felimon C. Abelila III (295 SCRA 267) Impropriety
Facts: in a family dispute over a parcel of land, respondent judge committed acts of forcible entry, attempted to deny complainant of possession despite alease in the latter’s favor. He also gave firearms to his men in order to assault complainant’s workers. Respondent also fled from police when called in for questioning.Held: Respondent DISMISSED. A judge is the visible representation of the law and the embodiment of the people’s sense of justice and that, accordingly,he should constantly keep himself away from any act of impropriety, not only in the performance of his official duties but also in his everyday actuations. Noother position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than perhaps a seat in the judiciary. A judge must be thefirst to abide by the law and to weave an example for the others to follow.
Case Digest on Spouses Benedicto & Rose Godinez v. Hon. Antonio Alano and Sheriff Alberto Ricardo Alano (303 SCRA 259) Impropriety
Facts: G charged A with committing irregularities in a civil case for sum of money. In said case, a writ of preliminary attachment was issued and the effectsseized were kept in Judge A’s house. The court investigator found that the writ was improperly issued because the allegations of fraud and attempts toabscond in the affidavit were bare assertions and not substantiated by the facts.Held: FINED. The writ was issued in error. But in order to merit a disciplinary sanction, the error or mistake committed by a judge should be patent, gross,malicious, deliberate, or done in bad faith. Absent a clear showing that the judge has acted arrantly, the issue becomes judicial in character and would notproperly warrant the imposition of administrative punishment. Judge A is fined for storing the effects in his house and their intent to charge storage fees.Judges should avoid impropriety of the appearance of impropriety.
Case Digest on Gregorio & Teresita Lorena v. Judge Adolfo Encomienda (302 SCRA 632) Impropriety
Facts: Spouses Lorena were evicted from the property of Judge E’s brother. They refused to vacate. The mayor invited the parties to a conciliation meetingbut they still refused. The owners allowed them to stay on the condition that they sign a written promise to leave after the grace period. When L refused, Ephoned him and tried to convince him to sign. L still refused, E then said: “mga tarantado, mabulok kayo sa kalabos!” and slammed the phone down. Laccuses E and his conspirators of abuse of authority for later throwing them in jail.Held: REPRIMANDED. Although the charges against E were refuted by evidence, the serious nature of the tasks of judges requires them to be circumspectin both their public and their private dealings. As they are “expected to rise above human frailties” they must, in all their activities, avoid not only improprietybut even the appearance of impropriety. Hence, E should not have called L by [hone – which gave the impression of undue pressure and influence. Heshould not have cursed L over the phone as a judge’s behavior must be beyond reproach.
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