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ZOILO ANTONIO VELEZ vs. ATTY. LEONARD S. DE VERA A.C. No. 6697, Bar Matter 1227 and A.M. No. 05-5-15-SC, 25 July 2006, Per Curium (En Banc) The Court has emphasized that the judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer in a foreign jurisdiction does not automatically result in his suspension or disbarment in the Philippines. Judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer may transmute into a similar judgment of suspension in the Philippines only if the basis of the foreign court's action includes any of the grounds for disbarment or suspension in this jurisdiction. The judgment of the foreign court merely constitutes prima facie evidence of unethical acts as lawyer. Complainant must prove by substantial evidence the facts upon which the recommendation by the hearing officer was based. If he is successful in this, he must then prove that these acts are likewise unethical under Philippine law. On April 11, 2005, Zoilo Antonio Velez filed a complaint for the suspension and/or disbarment of Atty. Leonard De Vera based on the latter's alleged misrepresentation in concealing the suspension order rendered against him by the State Bar of California. Velez averred that Atty. De Vera lacked the moral competence necessary to lead the country's most noble profession. It appears that Atty. De Vera handled an insurance case in California involving a certain Julius Willis III who figured in an automobile accident in 1986. He was authorized by the elder Willis (father of Julius) for the release of the funds in settlement of the case. He then received a check in settlement of the case which he deposited to his personal account. An administrative case was filed against him before the State Bar of California and it was recommended that he be suspended from the practice of law for three years. Thereafter, Atty. de Vera resigned from the California Bar which resignation was accepted by the Supreme Court of California. On April 15, 2005, Atty. De Vera filed a letter-request with the Court for his oathtaking as IBP National President. In a regular meeting on May 13, 2005, the IBP Board, by 2/3 vote, resolved to remove Atty. De Vera as member of the IBP Board and as EVP. Atty. De Vera allegedly made untruthful statements, innuendos and blatant lies during the Plenary Session of the IBP 10th National Convention of Lawyers on April 22, 2005, making it appear that the decision of the IBP Board to withdraw the Petition questioning R.A. 9227, was due to influence and pressure from the Supreme Court, thereby bringing the IBP Board and the IBP as a whole in public contempt and disrepute, in violation of Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers which mandates that a lawyer shall observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and should insist on similar conduct by others. It appears that the IBP Board approved the withdrawal of the Petition filed before the Court to question the legality and/or constitutionality of R.A. 9227, authorizing the increase in the salaries of judges and justices, and to increase filing fees. Atty. De
de Vera emphasizes the fact that Atty. De Vera as member of the IBP Board and as IBP EVP. Atty. de Vera's actuations. Atty. IBP National President Cadiz informed the Court of the election of IBP Governor Jose Vicente Salazar as EVP and requested that the latter's election be approved and that he be allowed to assume as National President in the event that Atty. during the said Plenary Session. De Vera was disbarred or suspended from the practice of law or should his removal from the IBP Board and as EVP be approved by the Court." He also questions his removal from the IBP Board on the ground that he was denied "very basic rights of due process recognized by the Honorable Court even in administrative cases" like the right to answer formally or in writing and within reasonable time. he was alleged to have falsely accused IBP National President Cadiz. prosecutor and judge at the same time. The IBP Board counters that since its members were present during the plenary session. Moreover. it was enough that he . IBP Governor Romulo Rivera and that the latter voted as well for his expulsion which made him accuser. and personally witnessed and heard Atty. an evidentiary or formal hearing was no longer necessary. 2005. He protests the fact that he was not able to crossexamine the complainant. the right to a fair hearing. Atty. Rivera asked for another round of voting so he could vote to support his own motion. Since they all witnessed and heard Atty. On May 13. the right to present witnesses in his behalf. Rivera initially inhibited himself from voting on his own motion. thereby creating the wrong impression that the IBP National President deliberately prevented him from taking the appropriate remedies with respect thereto. However. De Vera vehemently insists that there is no proof that he misappropriated his client's funds as the elder Willis gave him authority to use the same and that the latter even testified under oath that he "expected de Vera might use the money for a few days. the IBP issued a Resolution removing Atty. of withholding from him a copy of the Court's Resolution granting the withdrawal of the aforesaid Petition.RECENT JURISPRUDENCE – LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS Vera also allegedly instigated and provoked some IBP chapters to embarrass and humiliate the IBP Board in order to coerce and compel the latter to pursue the aforesaid Petition. de Vera. Thereafter. thus compromising the reputation and integrity of the IBP National President and the IBP as a whole. when his inhibition resulted in the defeat of his motion as the necessary 2/3 vote could not be mustered.
De Vera violated Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers Whether or not Atty. Complainant must prove by substantial evidence the facts upon which the recommendation by the hearing . De Vera is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for two years. he was given the opportunity to be heard and that. Salazar as IBP EVP for the remainder of the term 20032005 is AFFIRMED and he is DIRECTED to immediately take his oath of office and assume the Presidency of the IBP for the term 2005-2007. Maquera that the judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer in a foreign jurisdiction does not automatically result in his suspension or disbarment in the Philippines. Judgment of suspension against a Filipino lawyer may transmute into a similar judgment of suspension in the Philippines only if the basis of the foreign court's action includes any of the grounds for disbarment or suspension in this jurisdiction. de Vera was given a copy of the complaint and that he was present at the Board Meeting on May 13. The recommendation of the hearing officer of the State Bar of California. de Vera. No final judgment for suspension or disbarment was meted against Atty. Atty. His letter-complaint praying for the disapproval of the Resolution removing him from the IBP Board and as IBP EVP is DISMISSED. De Vera was denied due process when he was removed from the IBP Board and as IBP EVP HELD: Atty. is not proof of malpractice. de Vera despite a recommendation of suspension of three years as he surrendered his license to practice law before his case could be taken up by the Supreme Court of California. The election of Atty. Considering that there is technically no foreign judgment to speak of. in fact.RECENT JURISPRUDENCE – LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS was given an opportunity to refute and answer all the charges imputed against him. They emphasized that Atty. Therein. de Vera did argue his case. De Vera independent of the recommendation of suspension by the hearing officer of the State Bar of California. ISSUES: 1) 2) 3) Whether or not there is substantial proof that Atty. The Court has emphasized in the case of the Suspension from the Practice of Law in the Territory of Guam of Atty. standing alone. de Vera was removed for just and valid cause Whether or not Atty. 2005 wherein the letter-complaint against him was part of the agenda. the recommendation by the hearing officer of the State Bar of California does not constitute prima facie evidence of unethical behavior by Atty. There is substantial evidence of malpractice on the part of Atty. Leon G. The judgment of the foreign court merely constitutes prima facie evidence of unethical acts as lawyer.
which by itself did not speak well of the character of Atty. not only to himself but to the noble profession to which he belongs. De Vera now has the burden of rebutting the evidence which he himself supplied. For. Atty. Rule 16. Rather. A lawyer shall keep the funds of each client separate and apart from his own and those of others kept by him. indeed. the unauthorized use by a lawyer of his client's funds is highly unethical. It is clear that he. Disciplinary action against a lawyer is intended to protect the court and the public from the misconduct of officers of the court and to protect the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important function shall be competent. De Vera violated his oath to conduct himself with all good fidelity to his client. use his client's funds. it was more an acceptance of the probability that Atty. thus: A LAWYER SHALL HOLD IN TRUST ALL MONEYS AND PROPERTIES OF HIS CLIENT THAT MAY COME TO HIS POSSESSION. De Vera of his client's funds. he must then prove that these acts are likewise unethical under Philippine law. it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants to the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the profession betrays their trust and confidence. honorable and reliable men in whom courts and clients may repose confidence. De Vera independent of the recommendation of suspension by the hearing officer of the State Bar of California. Consequently. By insisting that he was authorized by the elder Willis to use the funds. Atty. Atty.01. malpractice. de Vera's act of holding on to his client's money without the latter's acquiescence is conduct indicative of lack of integrity and propriety. Nevertheless. de Vera has impliedly admitted the use of his client's funds for his own personal use. A lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. is guilty of deceit. there is substantial evidence of malpractice on the part of Atty. Rule 16. gross misconduct and unethical behavior. He caused dishonor. Beyond doubt.02. . de Vera or the way such character was perceived. Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility is emphatic about this. de Vera might.RECENT JURISPRUDENCE – LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS officer was based. This admission constitutes more than substantial evidence of malpractice. That the elder Willis "expected de Vera might use the money for a few days" was not so much an acknowledgment of consent to the use by Atty. by depositing the check in his own account and using the same for his own benefit. Atty. If he is successful in this. The statutory enunciation of the grounds for disbarment on suspension is not to be taken as a limitation on the general power of courts to suspend or disbar a lawyer.
the IBP Board was well within its right in removing Ally.RECENT JURISPRUDENCE – LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS The inherent power of the court over its officers cannot be restricted. As a means of self-preservation. Conflicts and disagreements of varying degrees of intensity. subject to the approval of this Court. internecine conflicts must thus be adjusted within the governing board itself so as to free it from [he stresses that invariably arise when internal cleavages are made public. The IBP Board removed Atty. However. It is not essential that . but especially of the IBP since lawyers are said to disagree before they agree. the effectiveness of the IBP. is diluted if the conflicts are brought outside its governing body for then there would be the impression that the IBP. The constitutional provision on due process safeguards life. it cannot effectively perform its duty of helping the Court enforce the code of legal ethics and the standards of legal practice as well as improve the administration of justice. still. It cannot be said that the position of IBP EVI1 13 property within the constitutional sense especially since there is no right to security of tenure over said position as. de Vera as IBP Governor for just and valid cause. Article VI of the IBP By-Laws. in administrative proceedings. the power to disbar must be exercised with great caution.ill that is required to remove any member of the board of governors for cause is a resolution adopted by /^ of the remaining members of the board. the essence of due process is simply the opportunity Lo explain one's side. Considering the amount involved here . does not and cannot speak for its members in an authoritative fashion. However. It would accordingly diminish the IBP's prestige and repute with the lawyers as well as with the general public.Even if the right of due process could be rightfully invoked. the constitutional requirement of due process is met by a fair hearing before a regularly established administrative agency Or tribunal.000.US$12. de Vera as IBP Governor. The IBP Board observed due process in the removal of Atty. Therefore. Thus. in fact. When the IBP board is not seen by the bar and the public as a cohesive unit.the penalty of suspension for two years is appropriate. The IBP Board is vested with the power to remove any of its members pursuant to Section 44. liberty and property. like any other organization. are inherent in the internal life of an organization. the right to a notice or hearing are not essential to due process of law. if not animosity. .00 . in certain proceedings of administrative character. de Vera as the latter's actuations during the 10th National IBP Convention were detrimental to the role of the IBP Board as the governing body of the IBP. which speaks through the Board of Governors. under which a member of the IBP Board may be removed for cause by resolution adopted by % of the remaining members of the Board.
From the transcript of the stenographic notes of the May 13. One adequate hearing is all that due process requires. Atty. 2005 meeting wherein he was removed. there is available trial and tribunal before which all objections and defenses lo the making of such determination may be raised and considered. it is patent that he was given fair opportunity to defend himself against the accusations made by Atty.RECENT JURISPRUDENCE – LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS hearings be had before the making of a determination if thereafter. de Vera received a copy of the complaint against him and that he was present when the matter was taken up. The right to crossexamine is not an indispensable aspect of due process. . Rivera.
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