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2006 Legal Ethics Case Digest

MARIA ELENA MORENO VS. ATTY. ERNESTO ARANETA A.C. No. 1109. April 27, 2005 Facts: Ernesto Araneta issued two checks to Elena Moreno for his indebtedness which amounts to P11, 000.00, the checks were dishonored. It was dishonored because the account against which is drawn is closed. Thereafter the case was forwarded to the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline pursuant to Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court. The Commission recommended the suspension from the practice of law for three (3) months. On 15 October 2002, IBP Director for Bar Discipline Victor C. Fernandez, transmitted the records of this case back to this Court pursuant to Rule 139-B, Sec. 12(b) of the Rules of Court. Thereafter, the Office of the Bar Confidant filed a Report regarding various aspects of the case. The Report further made mention of a Resolution from this Court indefinitely suspending the respondent for having been convicted by final judgment of estafa through falsification of a commercial document. Issue: Whether or not Araneta should be disbarred due to the issuance of checks drawn against a closed account. Held: The Court held that the act of a person in issuing a check knowing at the time of the issuance that he or she does not have sufficient funds in, or credit with, the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment, is a manifestation of moral turpitude. In Co v. Bernardino and Lao v. Medel, we held that for issuing worthless checks, a lawyer may be sanctioned with one years suspension from the practice of law, or a suspension of six months upon partial payment of the obligation. In the instant case, however, herein respondent has, apparently been found guilty by final judgment of estafa thru falsification of a commercial document, a crime involving moral turpitude, for which he has been indefinitely suspended. Considering that he had previously committed a similarly fraudulent act, and that this case likewise involves moral turpitude, we are constrained to impose a more severe penalty. In fact, we have long held that disbarment is the appropriate penalty for conviction by final judgment of a crime involving moral turpitude. As we said in In The Matter of Disbarment Proceedings v. Narciso N. Jaramillo, the review of respondent's conviction no longer rests upon us. The judgment not only has become final but has been executed. No elaborate argument is necessary to hold the respondent unworthy of the privilege bestowed on him as a member of the bar. Suffice it to say that, by his conviction, the respondent has proved himself unfit to protect the administration of justice. Spouses OLBES VS. Atty. VICTOR V. DECIEMBRE AC-5365. April 27, 2005 Facts: Atty. Victor V. Deciembre was given five blank checks by Spouses Olbes for security of a loan. After the loan was paid and a receipt issued, Atty. Deciembre filled up four of the five checks for P50, 000 with different maturity date. All checks were dishonored. Thus, Atty. Deciembre fled a case for estafa against the spouses Olbes. This

prompted the spouses Olbes to file a disbarment case against Atty. Deciembre with the Office of the Bar Confidant of this Court. In the report, Commissioner Dulay recommended that respondent be suspended from the practice of law for two years for violating Rule 1.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Issue: Whether or not the suspension of Atty. Deciembre was in accord with his fault. Held: Membership in the legal profession is a special privilege burdened with conditions. It is bestowed upon individuals who are not only learned in the law, but also known to possess good moral character. A lawyer is an oath-bound servant of society whose conduct is clearly circumscribed by inflexible norms of law and ethics, and whose primary duty is the advancement of the quest for truth and justice, for which he has sworn to be a fearless crusader. By taking the lawyers oath, an attorney becomes a guardian of truth and the rule of law, and an indispensable instrument in the fair and impartial administration of justice. Lawyers should act and comport themselves with honesty and integrity in a manner beyond reproach, in order to promote the publics faith in the legal profession. It is also glaringly clear that the Code of Professional Responsibility was seriously transgressed by his malevolent act of filling up the blank checks by indicating amounts that had not been agreed upon at all and despite respondents full knowledge that the loan supposed to be secured by the checks had already been paid. His was a brazen act of falsification of a commercial document, resorted to for his material gain. Deception and other fraudulent acts are not merely unacceptable practices that are disgraceful and dishonorable; they reveal a basic moral flaw. The standards of the legal profession are not satisfied by conduct that merely enables one to escape the penalties of criminal laws. Considering the depravity of the offense committed by respondent, we find the penalty recommended by the IBP of suspension for two years from the practice of law to be too mild. His propensity for employing deceit and misrepresentation is reprehensible. His misuse of the filled-up checks that led to the detention of one petitioner is loathsome. Thus, he is sentenced suspended indefinitely from the practice of law effective immediately. NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY, INC., and BEN A. NICOLAS vs. Atty. MACARIO D. ARQUILLO A.C. No. 6632. August 2, 2005 Facts: Atty. Macatrio D. Arquillo represented opposing parties in one a case before the before the National Labor Relations Commission, Regional Arbitration Branch in San Fernando, La Union. Herein, complainants accuse Atty. Arquillo of deceit, malpractice, gross misconduct and/or violation of his oath as attorney by representing conflicting interests. The case was filed with the IBP-Commission on Bar Discipline which found Atty. Arquillo guilty of the charge and recommended a penalty of suspension for 6 months. The governors of the IBP increased the penalty for 2 years. Issue: Whether or not the acts of Arquillo merits his suspension from the practice of law. Held: The Code of Professional Responsibility requires lawyers to observe candor,

fairness and loyalty in all their dealings and transactions with their clients. Corollary to this duty, lawyers shall not represent conflicting interests, except with all the concerned clients written consent, given after a full disclosure of the facts. When a lawyer represents two or more opposing parties, there is a conflict of interests, the existence of which is determined by three separate tests: (1) when, in representation of one client, a lawyer is required to fight for an issue or claim, but is also duty-bound to oppose it for another client; (2) when the acceptance of the new retainer will require an attorney to perform an act that may injuriously affect the first client or, when called upon in a new relation, to use against the first one any knowledge acquired through their professional connection; or (3) when the acceptance of a new relation would prevent the full discharge of an attorneys duty to give undivided fidelity and loyalty to the client or would invite suspicion of unfaithfulness or double dealing in the performance of that duty. An attorney cannot represent adverse interests. It is a hornbook doctrine grounded on public policy that a lawyers representation of both sides of an issue is highly improper. The proscription applies when the conflicting interests arise with respect to the same general matter, however slight such conflict may be. It applies even when the attorney acts from honest intentions or in good faith. In accordance with previous rulings from this court Atty. Arquillo is suspended for 1 year from the practice of law. RE: LETTER DATED 21 FEBRUARY 2005 OF ATTY. NOEL S. SORREDA. A.M. No. 05-3-04-SC July 22, 2005 Facts: Atty. Noel S. Sorreda wrote a letter addressed to the Chief Justice over his frustrations of the outcome of his cases decided by the Supreme Court. The letter contained derogatory and malignant remarks which are highly insulting. The Court accorded Atty. Sorreda to explain, however, instead of appearing before the court, he wrote another letter with insulting remarks as the first one. The court was thus offended with his remarks. Issue: Whether or not Atty. Sorreda can be held guilty of contempt due to the remarks he has made in his letters addressed to the court. Held: Unfounded accusations or allegations or words tending to embarrass the court or to bring it into disrepute have no place in a pleading. Their employment serves no useful purpose. On the contrary, they constitute direct contempt of court or contempt in facie curiae and a violation of the lawyers oath and a transgression of the Code of Professional Responsibility. As officer of the court, Atty. Sorreda has the duty to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts and to promote confidence in the fair administration of justice. [24] No less must this be and with greater reasons in the case of the countrys highest court, the Supreme Court, as the last bulwark of justice and democracy Atty. Sorreda must be reminded that his first duty is not to his client but to the administration of justice, to which his clients success is wholly subordinate. His conduct ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of law and ethics. The use of intemperate language and unkind ascription can hardly be justified nor can it have a place in the dignity of judicial forum. Civility among members of the legal profession is a

treasured tradition that must at no time be lost to it. Hence, Atty. Sorreda has transcended the permissible bounds of fair comment and constructive criticism to the detriment of the orderly administration of justice. Free expression, after all, must not be used as a vehicle to satisfy ones irrational obsession to demean, ridicule, degrade and even destroy this Court and its magistrates. Thus, ATTY. NOEL S. SORREDA is found guilty both of contempt of court and violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility amounting to gross misconduct as an officer of the court and member of the Bar. Heirs of Herman Rey, represented by ARACELI Vda. DE ROMERO vs. Atty. Venancio Reyes, Jr. A.C. No. 6192 June 23, 2005 Facts: Atty. Venancio Reyes is counsel for Heirs of Herman Rey for which they are intervenors in a civil case involving multiple sale of a piece of land. There were three buyers however, and to settle the case, they had agreed to a Compromise Agreement. The Compromise Agreement, dated June 16, 1995, was signed in three stages, first by Elizabeth Reyes and her husband, then by complainants and their counsel, Atty. Renato Samonte Jr., and last, by Antonio Gonzales, Veronica Gonzales for and on behalf of V.R. Credit Enterprises, Inc. and by herein respondent. Later, the RTC which houses the records of the case was destroyed by fire, thus The complainants filed a motion for reconstitution of the records of the case, which was granted by the RTC of Bulacan. The documents attached to the motion were the basis for the reconstituted records. Because of the circumstances of signing of the Compromise Agreement, the copy submitted to the RTC bore only the signatures of Elizabeth Reyes, her husband, complainants, and that of their counsel, Atty. Renato Samonte. After a lapse of two (2) years from the date of the Compromise Agreement, V.R. Credit Enterprises, Inc. still has not complied with its obligation toward complainants. Hence, complainants filed a motion for issuance of writ of execution against V.R. Credit Enterprises, Inc. for such failure. Atty. Reyes filed a motion for the case was premature. Later he raised the issue that the Compromise Agreement was not valid since it was not signed by Veronica Gonzales. Hence, the RTC rued that the Compromise as unenforceable. Thus, herein, complainants filed this administrative case against Atty. Venancio Reyes Jr. charging him with willful and intentional falsehood, in violation of his oath as a member of the Philippine bar. IBP investigating commissioner found him guilty of violation of his oath. Issue: Whether or not Atty. Venancio Reyes is administratively liable. Held: Lawyers are indispensable instruments of justice and peace. Upon taking their professional oath, they become guardians of truth and the rule of law. Verily, when they appear before a tribunal, they act not merely as the parties representatives but, first and foremost, as officers of the court. Thus, their duty to protect their clients interests is secondary to their obligation to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice. In assailing the legality of the Compromise Agreement, he claims good faith. He maintains that he should not be faulted for raising an allegedly valid defense to protect his clients interests. The records show, however, that his actions bear hallmarks of dishonesty and doublespeak. Atty. Reyes is one of negotiating panel in the compromise

agreement. He impressed upon the parties and the trial judge that his clients were bound to the Compromise Agreement. Then, suddenly and conveniently, he repudiated it by falsely alleging that one of his clients had never signed it. True, lawyers are obliged to present every available remedy or defense to support the cause of their clients. However, their fidelity to their causes must always be made within the parameters of law and ethics, never at the expense of truth and justice. In Choa v. Chiongson this principle was explained thus: While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full devotion to his genuine interest, and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds of the law Thus, herein, Atty. Venancio Reyes, was ordered suspended for 1 year. JESUS M. FERRER vs. ATTY. JOSE ALLAN M. TEBELIN A.C. No. 6590. June 27, 2005 Facts: Ferrer obtained the services of Atty. Tebelin in a case against Global Link as a result of a vehicular accident through the falut of Global Links driver. Ferrer paid Atty. Tebelin P5, 000.00 as acceptance fee and gave him all pertinent documents. However, Ferrer filed an administrative case against Atty. Tebelin alleging that the said lawyer abandoned his case. However, Atty. Tebelin expressed his willingness to return the money and denied having abandoned the case. However, during the proceedings, herein Ferrer died. Atty. Tebelin was nowhere to be found in his given address. Issue: Whether or not Atty. Tebellin may still be held liable despite the death of the complainant. Held: The court held that Atty. Tebelin may still be held liable despite the death of the complainant. The death of a complainant in an administrative case notwithstanding, the case may still proceed and be resolved. As in the case of Tudtud v. Colifores, the court ruled that The death of the complainant herein does not warrant the non-pursuance of the charges against respondent Judge. In administrative cases against public officers and employees, the complainants are, in a real sense, only witnesses. Hence, the unilateral decision of a complainant to withdraw from an administrative complaint, or even his death, as in the case at bar, does not prevent the Court from imposing sanctions upon the parties subject to its administrative supervision. This Court also finds respondent, for ignoring the notices of hearing sent to him at his address which he himself furnished, or to notify the IBP-CBD his new address if indeed he had moved out of his given address. His actuation betrays his lack of courtesy, his irresponsibility as a lawyer. This Court faults respondent too for welting on his manifestation-undertaking to return the P5,000.00, not to mention the documents bearing on the case, to complainant or his heirs. Such is reflective of his reckless disregard of the duty imposed on him by Rule 22.02 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: Rule 22.02 A lawyer who withdraws or is discharged shall, subject to a retaining lien, immediately turn over all papers and property to which the client is entitled, and shall cooperate with his successor in the orderly transfer of the matter, including all information necessary for the proper handling of the matter.

Thus, the court suspended Atty. Jose Allan M. Tebelin from the practice of law for Two (2) Months and is ordered to return to complainants heirs the amount of P5, 000.00, with legal interest. JUDGES; UNDUE DELAY IN RENDERING JUDGMENT , A VIOLATION OF RULE 70 SECTION 11 OF THE RULES OF COURT DORCAS PETALLAR VS. JUDGE JAUNILLO PULLOS A.M. No. MTJ-03-1484. January 15, 2004 Facts: Complainant Dorcas Petallar averred that after the preliminary conference in a case for forcible entry, he, as plaintiff and the defendants were ordered to submit their respective position papers and evidence. Two months from the submission of their position papers, complainant personally went to the Court to verify the judgment had been rendered. He caused his lawyer to file a motion for rendition of judgment which was duly received by the court on August 6, 2001 but still no judgment was rendered on December 27, 2001 when the complaint was filed. Hence, complainant Petallar charged Judge Juanillo Pullos, former presiding judge of the MCTC of Surigao del Norte of violating Canon 1, Rule 1.02 & Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct as well as Rule 140, Section 4 & Rule 70, Section 10 & 11 of the Rules of the Court for undue delay in rendering a decision in a case for forcibly entry. Issue: Whether or not respondent be held liable for undue delay in rendering judgment. Held: Respondent is guilty of undue delay in rendering judgment. The records show that the parties had filed their respective position papers as early as February 2, 2000. thus, respondent had until March 4, 2000. Had there been circumstances which presented him from handling down his decision within the prescribed period, respondent should have at least requested from the Court for an extension within which to render judgment. Failure to resolve cases submitted for decisions within the period fixed by law constitutes serious violation of Article III, section 16 of the Constitution. Judges must perform their official duties with utmost diligence if public confidence in the judiciary is to be preserved. A judge cannot by himself prolong the period for deciding cases beyond that authorized by law. Without any order of extension granted by the court, failure to decide a case within the prescribed period constitutes gross inefficiency that merits administrative sanction. COMPLAINTS FOR DISBARMENT; FORMAL INVESTIGATION MERCEDES NAVA VS. ATTY. BENJAMIN SORONGON AC No. 5442. January 26, 2004 Facts: Respondent Atty. Sorongon had been the counsel of complainant Mercedes Nava for years. The former informed her of his intention to withdraw as her counsel in two of her cases due to a stroke that paralyzed his right body but proposed to be retained in two other criminal cases with lesser paper works. He filed his withdrawal on December 4, 1996 and was granted by the court. Complainant alleged that while she continuously paid for the respondents services, the latter represented other clients with hostile interests and cases filed against her. Complainant cried that respondent assisted one Francisco Atas in

filing a formal complaint for 11 counts of violation of B.P. 22 against her. She sent a letter to respondents expressing her disbelief and reminding him of his ethical and moral responsibility as a lawyer. Complainant prayed that an investigation be conducted regarding this unfortunate actuation and deplorable behavior as well as respondents double standard attitude. Thereafter, the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline issued a resolution suspending respondent from the practice of law for one year considering his clear violation of the prohibition against representing conflicting interest. Issue: Whether or not a formal investigation is mandatory in complaints for disbarment. Held: In complaints for disbarment, a formal investigation is a mandatory requirement. The court may dispense with the normal referral to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines if the records are complete and the question raised is simple. Similarly, if no further, factual determination is necessary, the court may decide the case on the basis of the extensive pleading on record. Complaints against lawyers for misconduct are normally addressed to the Court. If, at the outset, the Court finds a complaint to be clearly wanting in merit, it out rightly dismisses the case. If, however, the Court deems it necessary that further inquiry should be made, such as when the matter could not be resolved by merely evaluating the pleadings submitted, a referral is made to the IBP for a formal investigation of the case during which the parties are accorded an opportunity to be heard. An ex parte investigation may only be conducted when respondent fails to appear despite reasonable notice. ABANDONMENT OF LAWFUL WIFE AND MAINTAINING ILLICIT RELATIONSHIP AS GROUND FOR DISBARMENT JOVITA BUSTAMANTE-ALEJANDRO VS. ATTY. WARFREDO TOMAS ALEJANDRO and MARICRIS VILLARIN AC No. 4256. February 13, 2004 Facts: Complainant submitted a photocopy of the marriage contract between her and respondent Atty. Alejandro in support of her charge of bigamy and concubinage against the latter and Villarin. She also submitted a photocopy of the birth certificate of a child of the respondent and also stated that they were married in May 1, 1990 in Isabela, Province. The Supreme Court directed respondents to file their comment on the complaint within 10 days but they failed to comply. Copies of the resolution, complaint and its annexes were returned to both respondents unserved with notation moved, same as when served personally. Complainant was required anew to submit the correct, present address of respondents under pain of dismissal of her administrative complaint. She disclosed respondents address at 12403 Develop Drive Houston, Texas in a handwritten letter. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) recommended that both respondents be disbarred. The Supreme Court ordered Atty. Alejandro to be disbarred while the complaint against his co-respondent Atty. Villarin was returned to the IBP for further proceedings or it appears that a copy of the resolution requiring comment was never deemed served upon her as it was upon Atty. Alejandro.

Issue: Whether or not abandonment of lawful wife and maintaining an illicit relationship with another woman are grounds for disbarment. Held: Sufficient evidence showed that respondent Atty. Alejandro, lawfully married to complainant, carried on an illicit relationship with co-respondent Atty. Villarin. Although the evidence was not sufficient to prove that he co0ntracted a subsequent bigamous marriage, that fact remains of his deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as member of the bar. A disbarment proceeding is warranted against a lawyer who abandons his lawful wife and maintains an illicit relationship with another woman who had borne him a child. We can do no less in this case where Atty. Alejandro even fled to another country to escape the consequences of his misconduct. Therefore, Atty. Alejandro disbarred from the practice of law while the complaint against Atty. Villarin was referred back to the IBP. VIOLATION OF THE CODE OF PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY; FAILURE OF COUNSEL TO FILE BRIEF BIOMIE SARENAS-OCHAGABIA VS. ATTY. BALMES OCAMPOS AM No. 4401. January 29, 2004 Facts: Complainant Biomie Sarenas-Ochagabia and her aunts engaged the services of respondent Atty. Balmes Ocampos in a civil case for recovery of possession and ownership of a parcel of land. An adverse decision was rendered against complainants. Atty. Ocampos filed a Notice of Appeal at their behest. The Court of Appeals gave them 45 days from notice to file their brief but Atty. Ocampos was granted a 90-day extension. The extended period lapsed without an appellants brief being filed, hence their appeal was dismissed. The dismissal was not challenged, but complainants filed a complaint contending that respondent violated his duty to inform them of his failure to file appellants brief and of the dismissal of the appeal. Issue: Whether or not respondent has exercised due diligence for the protection of the clients interests. Held: A lawyer engaged to represent a client in a case bears the responsibility of protecting the latters interest with utmost diligence. By failing to file appellants brief, respondent was remiss in the discharge of such responsibility. He thus violated the Code of Professional which states: Rule 12.03 A lawyer shall not, after attaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an explanation for his failure to do so. Rule 18.03 A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. That respondent accepted to represent complainants gratis et amore does not justify his failure to exercise due diligence in the performance of his duty. Every case deserves full attention, diligence, and competence regardless of its importance and whether he accepts it for a fee or free.

Until his final release from the professional relation with a client, a counsel of record is under obligation to protect the clients interest. If a party has a counsel of record, a court does not recognize any other representation in behalf thereof unless in collaboration with such counsel of record or until a formal substitution of counsel is effected. Since respondent had not then withdrawn as counsel as he in fact filed a motion for extension of time to file brief, he was under obligation to discharge his professional responsibility.