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DOMINADOR P. BURBE VS. ATTY. ALBERTO C. MAGULTA AC NO. 99-634.

JUNE 10, 2002 Monday, February 23, 2009 Posted by Coffeeholic Writes Labels: Case Digests, Legal Ethics

Facts: Petitioner engaged the services of the respondent to help him recover a claim of money against a creditor. Respondent prepared demand letters for the petitioner, which were not successful and so the former intimated that a case should already be filed. As a result, petitioner paid the lawyer his fees and included also amounts for the filing of the case.

A couple of months passed but the petitioner has not yet received any feedback as to the status of his case. Petitioner made several follow-ups in the lawyers office but to no avail. The lawyer, to prove that the case has already been filed even invited petitioner to come with him to the Justice Hall to verify the status of the case. Petitioner was made to wait for hours in the prosecutors office while the lawyer allegedly went to the Clerk of Court to inquire about the case. The lawyer went back to the petitioner with the news that the Clerk of Court was absent that day.

Suspicious of the acts of the lawyer, petitioner personally went to the office of the clerk of court to see for himself the status of his case. Petitioner found out that no such case has been filed.

Petitioner confronted Atty. Magulta where he continued to lie to with the excuse that the delay was being caused by the court personnel, and only when shown the certification did he admit that he has not at all filed the complaint because he had spent the money for the filing fee for his own purpose; and to appease petitioners feelings, he offered to reimburse him by issuing two (2) checks, postdated June 1 and June 5, 1999, in the amounts of P12,000.00 and P8,000.00, respectively.

Issue: Whether or not the lawyer should be disbarred.

Held: Yes. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the Commission on Bar Discipline of the IBP as follows: It is evident that the P25,000 deposited by complainant with the Respicio Law Office was for the filing fees of the Regwill complaint. With complainants deposit of the filing fees for the Regwill complaint, a corresponding obligation on the part of respondent was created and that was to file the Regwill complaint within the time frame contemplated by his client. The failure of respondent to fulfill this obligation due to his misuse of the filing fees deposited by complainant, and his attempts to cover up this misuse of funds of the client, which caused complainant additional damage and prejudice, constitutes highly dishonest conduct on his part, unbecoming a member of the law profession. The subsequent reimbursement by the respondent of part of the money deposited by complainant for filing fees, does not exculpate the respondent for his misappropriation of said funds.