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Carmelo V. Sison - Legal and Judicial Ethics

Carmelo V. Sison - Legal and Judicial Ethics

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Published by: Jocelle Dela Cruz on Jun 20, 2012
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LEGALAND JUDICIAL ETHICS
CarmeloV.Sison
>!<
LEGAL
ETHICSThe field oflegalethics
is
bounded,
as
it were,
by
a four-fold relation.Both the lawandpractice haveestablishedthe lawyer'srelation to thecourts, tohis clients,to the barandtothepublic.
The
normsbearingon these have their positivesource
in
the Rules of Court, judicial decisionsand
th
eCanons of Professional Ethics. The Canons ofProfessional Ethicsfor lawyersin
th
ePhilippines wereadopted
by
the Philippine
Bar
Associationin 1917and againin 1946;and
th
e
se
were derived from the Canonsof theAmerican Bar Associationof1908.1TheCanonshave beencited and applied
by
the Supreme Court
in
disciplinary cases oflawyersandcon stitute, toalarge measure,theethical guide
to
the conduct of the lawyer'sprofessionalaffairs.
Dutytocourts
A lawyer
is
an officer of the court and as such, a vitalinstrumentalityinthe administrationofjustice.Asavotary of thelaw, it
is
hisswornduty,commanded
by
the Rulesof Court
2
andtheCanonsof Professional Ethics
3
to
upholdthedignityand authority of the courts.Conductwhich promotes
di
strust
in;
th
e administrationofjusticeorundermines the people's confi dence
in
the courts
is
a violationof this duty.Disrespecttowardscourts, whetherbyword ordeed, has been dealt withunder eitheroftwo concepts. Although somecases do notappearto distinguishbetween the two,yet,becauseoftheir different purposes, it would seem necessary
th
at they bekept separate.Thefirst
is
through theexercise of the disciplinary power
by
theSupreme Court,andits object
is
to
safeguardandpreservethe ethicsof thelegal
pr
ofession byremovingorsuspendingamemberwhosemisconduct has provedhimselfunfittobe entrustedwiththeresponsibilities of alawyer.
4
The other concept
is
throughthe court's(Supreme Court orinferior court)contemptpower, the proceed-
*
SeniorResearcher,
DivisionofResearchandLaw Reform,U.P. Law Center
and
lnstructor,
College ofLaw,University
of
the Phi
li
ppines.
1
Malcolm,Le
ga
l
and
JudicialEthics
8.
2
Rules
of
Court, Rule 138.
3
Canon 1,CanonsofProfe
ss
ionalEthics.
4
ln
re
Almacen,G.R. No.27654,
February
18, 1
97
0,
31
SCRA 562(1970).
 
314
PHILIPPINE
LAW JOURNAL
[VOL. 46
ings forwhich
is
criminalin nature
5
but
administeredonthe preservative, notvindictiveprinciple.
6
Itspurpose
is
tovindicate the court's authority andtosafeguard thefunctionsitexercises.
In
Surigao MineralReservationBoard
v.
Cloribel
,7
alawyer was foundguilty
of
contempt for the use ofdisrespectful language in his motions:
(1)
In
amotion for reconsideration,he referred to the Supreme
Court
asa"civil
iz
ed,democratictribunal,"
but
by
innuendo suggesteditwas not;
(2)
ina motionto inhibit,he
(a)
characterizedthe Court's decision as"false,erroneous andillegal" in apr
es
umptuous manner;
(b)
accusedtwojustices forbeinginterested in thedecision of the case,withoutany basis infact andasked theolllermembers
of
the court
to
inhibit themselves because of favors orbenefits received fromanyof the petitioners including thePresident;
(c)
warned the Court thatloss of confidence for the Tribunaloramember
of
the Courtshould not beallowedto happen in
our
country"althou
gh
"the
proc
es
s hasalreadybegun"; and
(d)
mentionedthe Court's "unjudicialfavoritism" forpetitioners withoutanyfactual
or
legal basis.The
Co
urt overruled thepleathatdisrespectful languagewas necessaryforthedefense
o.f
his client since, aclient'scause"does not permita lawyer tocross the line betweenlibertya
nd
license."Stressing the primacyofthe lawyer'sdutytothecourts,theCourtpointed out that
"Lawyersmustalways keep
in
perspectivethe thought that'[s
]ince
lawyersare administrators
of
justice, oath-boundservants
of
society,their first duty
is
notto their clients, asmanysuppose,butto theadministra tion of
ju
stice;
to
thi
s,
their clients'successiswhollysubordinate; a
nd
theircondu
ct
ought to
and
mustbe
sc
rupulouslyobservant
of
law
and
ethics.'
,.
Moredramaticbut unfortunatelymorevituperativewas the criticism burled at theSupremeCourt
in
In
re
Almacen.
8
Therespondent here fileda "Pctition to SurrenderLawyer'sCertificateofTitle"inprotest against what healleged
"a
greatinjusticecommitted against his client by this Sup remeCourt", atribunal"peopled
by
menwho arecalloused to our pleasfor justice, whoignorewithoutreasonstheir own applicabledecisions and commitculpable violations ofthe Constitution withimpunity
."
After assert
in
gth
at
"justice,asadministered bythepresent members of the Supreme Court
is
notonly blind,butalsodeafanddumb,"he vowed to argue his client's cause"in the people'sforum
,"
sothat"the people may know of the
4;
Benedicto
v.
Canad
a,G.R.
No.
20292,
November
27
,1967,·
21
SCRA
1066
(1967).
6Commi
ss
ioner
of
Immigration
v.
Cloribel, G.R.No.
24139,
August
31, 1967,20
SC
RA
1241;
Lualhati
v.
Albert,G.
R.
No.
37430,
Au
gust
22
,
1932,57
Phil.
86(1932);
Villavi'cencio
v.
Lukban,
39
Phil. 778
(1919);
In
re
Quirino,
76
Phil.
630
(1946);
People
v.
Rivera,
91
Phil.
354
(1952);
Austria v.Masaquel, G.R.No.
22536,
August
31
,
1967,20
SCRA
1247 (1967).
7
G.R.No.
27072,
January
9,
1970,
31
SCRA
1
(1970).
8
Supra,
note 4.
 
1971]
LEGAL AND
JUDICIAL
ETHICS
315
silentInjusticescommitted
by
thisCourt,"andthat"whatever mistakes, wrongsand injustices thatwerecommittedmustneverbe repeated."The petition ended with aprayerthat
th
eClerk ofCourtbeorderedto receive
his
certificatewith
th
ereservation
th
at intheevent he regainshisfaith andconfidence in the Court,
he
m
ay
retrieve his titleand assumethe practice
of
his profession.Thecontents of this petitionweredisclosed to the press;
an
d partsof which were published.Respondent'sgrievancearose from aSupremeCourt's
minuteresolution
which denied his petitionforreview of a Court of Appealsresolution. The CourtofAppealsresolutiondenied his'motion for reconsideration
of
itsdecisiondismissing hisappeal, onthe groundthat his motion forreconsideration did notcontain a notice oftime and place
of
hearing. Hencetheperiod
of
appeal had lapsedandtheappeal was not perfected.The SupremeCourt admitted that therehad been cntlclsms againstitspractice
.of
rejectingpetit
io
ns byminuteresolutions; and adverted to suggestions that the Courtshould state,the factsandthe lawandgive reasons for the denial. However,itnoted that most petitionsrejected by the Courtwereutterly frivolousor failed towithstand critical scrutin
y;
and by and large,it had been
ge
nero
us
ingivingdue course to petitionsfor
certiorari.
The practice
is
necessary, reasonedthe Court,for if every casewereaccepted orafull opinionwritten forevery rejectedpetition, the Supreme Court would beunabletocarry out effectively its constitu tional burden,whichshould
be
limitedto
"o
nly thosecases which presentquestions whose resolutions
will
haveimmediate importancebeyond the particular factsandpartiesinvolved."
9
Havingacquitteditselfof the criticism,theCourt proceededtoevaluate respondent'sunprecedentedact. First, the Court drew outrespondent's motive, bystating thathis negli gence caused the forfeiture
of
the appeal, butthathe shiftedthe consequences ofhis carel
ess
n
ess
totheSupreme Court and made of it a"whipping boy" while assuming
th
eposture of amartyr
by
offering
to
surrender'hiscerti ficate. At thesametime,respondent
vil
ifi
edtheCourtandinflictedhis
"e
xacerbatingrancor" onits members. Secondly,citingauthorities, theCourtrecognized the rightand the duty of alawyer
as
citizenand officer ofthe Court,
to
exposetheshort comings and indiscretions
of
courtsbutnevertheless declaredthat a requisite conditionofsu
ch
criticism
is
thatitshould be
bona fide
andshouldnot spillovertheboundsofdecencyandpropriety. Intemperate andunjust critic ism,the Court declared,
is
a gross violationofthe dutyofrespect to courts, amisconductwhich subjects alawyerto disciplinaryaction."Alawyer's investitureintothelegal prof
ess
ion,"
it
continued,"placesuponhisshoul-
9
Quoting Mr. Chief JusticeVinzon of theUnitedStatesSupreme Court.

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