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RECTO v.

HARDEN
G.R. No. L-6897 November 29 1956 Concepcion Hermosisima
petitioners Esperanza Harden (appellant)
respondents Claro M Recto (appellee)
summary Mrs. Harden availed of the service of Atty. Recto to protect her share of the conjugal
partnership against dispositions made by her husband James (joke lang, Fred talaga) in
contemplation of the divorce suit she plans to file in California (California! In the
cityyyyyyy). Recto was successful in having the court order that properties alienated be
returned to an account from which Mrs. Harden could get her monthly support as well as
her share in the conjugal partnership after her marriage is dissolved. However, Mrs.
Harden and Mr. Harden suddenly entered into agreements waiving the judgment, which
in the opinion of Atty. Recto were made to defeat his claim for attorneys fees. Court
agreed with Recto. The court 1st discussed that the Contract of Service is valid because it a)
does not give Recto a share in the conjugal partnership because it only make the half of
such as basis for his fees and b)[PRIL] it wasnt entered into so that Recto could obtain
divorce in the PH which is not allowed by our laws. It was merely a contract to protect
Mrs. Hardens share in the partnership in contemplation of a divorce suit which is allowed
in the US. Moreover, both Mr. and Mrs. Harden are US citizens so the dissolution of their
marriage (according to Article 15 CC) will be governed by US laws, which allows divorce.

facts of the case


- Sometime in July 1941, Mrs. Esperanza Harden (Mrs. Harden) and Claro Recto executed a contract of
professional services (Contract of Service), the contents of which are summarized below:
o She engaged the services of Atty. Recto for the purpose of securing an increase in the amount of
her support from her husband Mr. (James) Harden and for the purpose of protecting and
preserving her right in the properties of the conjugal partnership, in contemplation of a divorce
suit which she intended to file in the Court of California
o Since she isnt currently able to pay Rectos retainer fee she agrees to pay Atty. Recto
25% of whatever increase in support she will get from Mr. (James) Harden
Attorneys fees charged as expenses of litigation
20% of her share and participation which he may receive in the funds and properties of
the conjugal partnership
- In compliance with the contract, Atty. Recto commenced a case in the CFI Manila entitled Esperanza
Harden v Fred Harden and Jose Salumbides wherein he prayed that
o Mrs. Harden be given the exclusive administration of all businesses and property of the
conjugal partnership OR that defendants inform Mrs. Harden of everything pertaining to the
businesses and property of the conjugal partnership
o That Mr. Harden account and return to the PH sums of money he withdrew and sent to HK
o That transfers of shares of stock in the name of 3rd persons and the administrator Salumbides be
cancelled and returned to the conjugal partnership
o That a writ of preliminary injunction be issued against the defendant to prevent them from
disposing of the property and businesses of the conjugal partnership
- A writ of preliminary injunction was thus issued by the CFI. Such injunction was modified upon an
agreement of the parties to put up a separate bank account in the Chartered Bank of India, Australia
and China. The funds of the conjugal partnership, as well as those that will be ordered returned to the
conjugal partnership will then be transferred to such bank account.

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- The Japs invaded the PH. After the liberation, records of the case were destroyed. Atty. Recto then
asked that the records be reconstituted. On October 31 1949, the CFI rendered a decision
o Declaring the value of the conjugal partnership at around P4Million.
o Ordering that a conjugal lien be annotated in the TCT of a parcel of land in QC, of certain shares
of stock, which will say that any alienation of Mr. Harden will be invalid for lack of consent of
Mrs. Harden
o Increasing the allowance of both Mr. and Mrs. Harden to P2500 from the previous
P1500/month
o Ordering Mr. (James) Harden to inform Mrs. Harden of all property and businesses belonging
to the conjugal partnership
o That a receiver be appointed to prevent Mr. Harden and Salumbides from disposing of the
property despite the writ of preliminary injunction
- Of course Mr. Harden and Salumbides appealed the case. While the appeal was pending, Atty. Recto
filed a manifestation and motion stating that Mrs. Harden suddenly instructed him to discontinue
all proceedings relative to the case above as well as all judgment obtained, since she executed
certain instruments with Mr. Harden:
o A settlement agreement between Mister and Missus for the sum of P5,000
o That a trust fund was created by Mr. Harden from which a monthly pension of P500/month
would be taken
- According to Atty. Recto, such documents were executed merely to defeat his claim as attorneys fees.
Thus he prayed in his motion that:
o The receiver appointed continue his functions
o He be declared entitled to the sum of P400,000 a his fees for services rendered
o That the cases above continue since the receivership is based on these cases, and that such cases
are important to safeguard his attorney fees
- A commissioner was appointed who reported that Atty. Recto was entitled to 20% of Mrs. Hardens
share of the conjugal partnership considering the time and effort the Attorney has given to her case.
CFI adopted the finding of the commissioner and found Atty. Recto entitled to the sum of P384,110.
Thus both Mr. and Mrs. Harden appealed such order to the SC.
- Their arguments are
o That Mrs. Harden cannot bind the conjugal partnership by the said Contract of Service without
Mr. Hardens consent
o That Article 1491 of the CC prohibits contingent fees
o [TOPIC FOR PRIL] That the Contract of Service has for its purpose securing a decree of divorce
allegedly in violation of Articles 1305, 1352, and 1409 of CC.
o Terms of the said Contract of Service are harsh, inequitable and oppressive

issue
Whether Atty. Recto was entitled to P386K YES

ratio
1st Contention: The Contract of Service does not seek to bind the conjugal partnership
- By virtue of the Contract of Service, Mrs. Harden merely bound herself to pay, by way of contingent
fees, 20% of her share in said partnership. The contract neither gives nor purports to give to Atty. Recto
any right (personal or real) to her aforesaid share in the partnership. The amount of her share is simply
made the basis of computation of Atty. Rectos fees
2nd Contention: It has already been held that contingent fees are not prohibited in the Philippines and are
impliedly sanctioned by the Philippines Cannon of Professional Ethics.
- Moreover, no proof was presented that Atty. Recto wanted to take unfair or unreasonable advantage of
Mrs. Harden

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3rd Contention: They are both US citizens, so divorce is allowed
- 1st off, the contract didnt say that Atty. Recto will procure a divorce or facilitate the procurement of a
divorce. The Contract of Service merely sought to protect Mrs. Hardens interest in the conjugal
partnership, during the pendency of a divorce suit she intends to file in the US.
- Moreover, since both Mr. and Mrs. Harden are admittedly US citizens, their status and dissolution
of their marriage by the laws of the US which sanctions divorce. [pursuant to Article 9 of the civil
code of Spain (which was in force in the PH at the time the contract of service was executed) and
Article 15 CC)
- Thus the contract was not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order or public policy

4th Contention: One who ask for equity must come with clean hands as well
- In this case, Atty. Recto has won for Mr. Harden P2Million since the conjugal partnership was found to
value around P4M
- After securing such a judgment, it was inconceivable then for Mrs. Harden to waive such judgment for
only $5,000 and $20,000 to be paid in installments. Records also show that the situation between Mr.
and Mrs. Harden has worsened since Mr. Harden already filed a divorce suit in Joysi (New Jersey)
allegedly for repeated acts of infidelity by Mrs. Harden
- Considering the services rendered and judgment obtained by Atty. Recto for Mrs. Harden, it isnt fair
to award to him 20% of her share in the conjugal partnership
- Appellants then argue that it was impossible for the lower court to determine an amount of P386K
since the amount of Mr. Hardens share can only be effected until the dissolution of the marriage
between Mr. and Mrs. Harden. The SC countered that considering the agreements entered into between
Mr. and Mrs. Harden after the judgment in the CFI (which were made to defeat Atty. Rectos claim for
attorneys fees), Mrs. Harden cannot now avail of such conditions.