Category Archives: Digests

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Imposition of Proper Penalty

Felicidad Dadizon vs. Judge Aniceto Lirios

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1295. August 1, 2000

 

 

Facts: Felicidad Dadizon was the complainant in a prosecution for Falsification of a Public Document (Art. 172, RPC) which was tried and decided by Judge Aniceto Lirios of the MTC of Naval, Biliran. Judge Lirios convicted the accused, Pablo Suzon, and sentenced him to a straight penalty of 7 months imprisonment and imposed a PhP 1,000 fine. Dadizon questioned the punishment meted by the said judge, alleging that the straight penalty of 7 months is way below the penalty provided by law. Judge Lirios defended his decision, stating that he had to appreciate the mitigating circumstance that Suzon was already 70 years of age.

 

 

Held: GUILTY. As judge of thirty-three (33) years, respondent should have known that the Indeterminate Sentence Law provides for the imposition of a prison sentence in the minimum and maximum term for offenses punishable by the Revised Penal Code or the special laws. The offense committed was Falsification by a Private Individual and Use of Falsified Document punishable under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for a penalty of imprisonment of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods (ranging from 2 years, 4 months and 1 days to 6 years) and a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00). Respondent Judge appreciated one (1) mitigating circumstance (old age), which is merely an ordinary mitigating circumstance. The imposition of a straight penalty of seven (7) months by respondent Judge is clearly erroneous. While a judge may not always be subjected to disciplinary action for every erroneous order or decision he renders, that relative immunity is not a license to be negligent or abusive and arbitrary in performing his adjudicatory prerogatives. It is true that a judge may err in fixing the minimum and maximum terms of an indeterminate sentence. However, the unawareness of or unfamiliarity with the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law and duration and graduation of penalties merit disciplinary action from reprimand to removal. Every judge should know that in applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law for offenses penalized under the Revised Penal Code, the indeterminate sentence should have a fixed minimum and maximum. And when the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Judge Aniceto Lirios was fined in the amount of PhP 5,000 and issued stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely by the Court.

 

Source:  Ateneo

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Legal Ethics Case Digests – Grant of a Motion for Reconsideration

Gloria Lucas v. Judge Amelia A. Fabros

A.M. No. MTJ-99-1226. January 31, 2000

 

Facts :  Complainant Lucas was the defendant in an ejectment case pending before respondent judge. She alleges that Judge Fabros granted the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration after the case had been dismissed the case for failure of plaintiff and her counsel to appear at the Preliminary Conference. She averred that it is elementary, under Section 19(c) of the Rules of Summary Procedure, that a motion for reconsideration is prohibited, but respondent judge, in violation of the rule, granted the motion for reconsideration. She added that, notwithstanding the fact that the respondent herself had pointed out in open court that the case is governed by the Rules on Summary Procedure, the judge ordered the revival of the case out of malice, partiality and with intent to cause an injury to complainant. Thus, the instant complaint, charging respondent judge with Gross Ignorance of the Law and Grave Abuse of Discretion

 

Held: NOT GUILTY.  The SC held that respondent judge not guilty of gross ignorance of the law and grave abuse of discretion.

            As a rule, a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading under Section 19 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure. This rule, however, applies only where the judgment sought to be reconsidered is one rendered on the merits. Here, the order of dismissal issued by respondent judge due to failure of a party to appear during the preliminary conference is obviously not a judgment on the merits after trial of the case. Hence, a motion for the reconsideration of such order is not the prohibited pleading contemplated under Section 19 (c) of the present Rule on Summary Procedure. Thus, respondent judge committed no grave abuse of discretion, nor is she guilty of ignorance of the law, in giving due course to the motion for reconsideration subject of the present

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Issuance of an Order of Release

Jesusa Santiago vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos

Margarita Sanchez vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1289. August 1, 2000

 

Facts: Jesusa Santiago and Margarita Sanchez were complainants in two different criminal cases before the MTC of San Ildefonso, Bulacan and the RTC of Rosales, Pampanga, respectively. The suspects in each of the criminal cases were caught by authorities and detained. However, both suspects were released by order of Judge Eduardo Jovellanos, presiding judge of the MCTC of Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan. The complainants questioned both Orders for Release issued by Judge Jovellanos, alleging that the requirements for the bailbond had not been fulfilled and that the said judge had no jurisdiction to order the release.

 

Held: GUILTY. There are two defects in the Orders for Release signed by Judge Jovellanos. First, in both cases, the detainees had not registered the bailbond in accordance with the Rules of Criminal Procedure. One may not be given provisional liberty if the bailbond is not registered with the proper office. Secondly, Judge Jovellanos did not have jurisdiction to order the release of the detainees. The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that when a suspect is arrested outside of the province, city or municipality where his case is pending, he may either apply for bail with the court where his case is pending or with any RTC in the province, city or municipality where he was arrested. If a RTC judge is not available, he may apply for bail with any MTC or MCTC in the place where he was arrested. In this case, Judge Jovellanos entertained motions for bail and ordered release for suspects whose cases were not pending in his court nor were they arrested within his jurisdiction. As an advocate of justice and a visible representation of the law, a judge is expected to keep abreast with and be proficient in the interpretation of our laws. A judge should be acquainted with legal norms and precepts as well as with statutes and procedural rules. Unfamiliarity with the Rules of Court is a sign of incompetence which goes against Canon 3, specifically Rule 3.01, of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, Judge Jovellanos owes the public and the court he sits in proficiency in the law. He must have the basic rules at the palm of his hands as he is expected to maintain professional competence at all times. Judge Jovellanos was suspended for 1 year without pay issued the warning that similar conduct in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Granting of Bail

Romulo Tolentino v. Judge Policarpio S. Camano, Jr.

A.M. RTJ-00-1522 January 20, 2000

 

Facts: Respondent Judge is being charged with gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of discretion, grave abuse of authority, violation of Canons 1, 2, and 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and incompetence in connection with granting bail to the accused in a criminal case for child abuse.

The complaint alleges that respondent Judge granted bail while pending the holding of a preliminary investigation. The defense moved to quash the information against the accused on the alleged absence of a preliminary investigation. Consequently, respondent Judge ordered that a preliminary investigation be had by the state prosecutor. During the pendency of this, he granted bail in favor of the defendant after several notices of hearing to the state prosecutor to which the latter failed to appear. After such grant, complainant herein now accuses respondent of denying the prosecution the chance to adduce evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong and that bail should not have been granted in his favor.

 

Held: NOT GUILTY. There was no denial of due process. It was not necessary to hold hearing so that the prosecution could show that evidence of guilt of the accused was strong since a preliminary investigation had been ordered by the court. At that point, bail was still a matter of right. Respondent judge, knowing that bail was indeed a matter of right at that stage, nevertheless set the hearing for the petition for bail four times. However, complainant failed to appear and present evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong. It thus appears that complainant is actually the one who was remiss in the performance of his duties. Considering that the case was referred to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for preliminary investigation, the accused could be considered as entitled to bail as a matter of right. Thus, respondent judge’s decision granting bail to the accused was proper and in accordance with law and jurisprudence.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Payment of Docket Fees in Election Cases

Alfredo B. Enojas v. Judge Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr.

A.M. No. RTJ-99-1513. January 19, 2000

 

Facts: Judge Gacott is being administratively charged in this case with serious misconduct, inefficiency and gross ignorance of the law. This complaint arose when respondent Judge dismissed an election case on the ground of non-payment of docket fees, although the case was had been previously admitted and was deemed properly filed by the original Judge (inhibited himself due to relationship to one’s of the parties) whom Judge Gacott replaced. Jugde G issued the dismissal order relying on a case (Manchester vs. CA) which states that – a case is deemed commenced only upon the payment of the proper docket fees. To his opinion, the required fees in this case was not yet paid by the protestant. Hence, this complaint charging him primarily with gross ignorance of the law.

 

Held: GUILTY. Based on the facts and circumstances attendant to the case, the election protest was properly filed. In fact, the original Judge already made an order that from the deposit given by the protestant for the expenses of reopening the questioned ballots, an amount shall be allocated for the payment of the required fees. More importantly, the Court held that the Manchester ruling relied upon by respondent Judge does not apply to election cases. In a latter case ( Pahilan), the evil sought to be avoided in the Manchester case does not exist in election cases. Truth is, the filing fee in an election case is fixed and the claim for damages, to which the docket fees shall be made to apply, is merely ancillary to main cause of action and is not even determinative of the court’s jurisdiction.

While it is true that not every error or mistake of a judge renders him administratively liable, in this case, it is clear that the respondent judge was in utter disregard of established rules amounting to gross ignorance of the law. The Pahilan case was decided long before the respondent made a ruling on the election case. Thus, the respondent judge was duty bound to adhere to, and apply the recent ruling, and he cannot feign ignorance thereof, because the Code of Judicial Ethics requires him to be an embodiment of, among other things, judicial competence. On e of the principal duties of a judge is to be abreast with law and jurisprudence since the administration of justice requires continuous study of the law and jurisprudence. A perusal of the challenge order reveals that respondent judge failed to live up to what is expected of him as a dispenser of justice.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Improper Imposition of the Punishment of Contempt

Flaviano B. Cortes v. Judge Felina Bangalan

A.M. No. MTJ-97-1129. January 19, 2000

 

Facts: Complainant was one of the co-accused in an adultery case filed before the sala of respondent Judge Bangalan. In a letter-complaint, he moved for the voluntary inhibition of respondent judge on the ground that the latter cannot be impartial over the criminal case because complainant previously filed an opposition to the appointment of respondent as RTC judge.

For this, respondent judge issued an order citing Complainant in direct contempt of court, averring further that his pleading contained derogatory, offensive or malicious statements “equivalent to misbehavior committed in the presence of or so near a court or judge as to interrupt the proceedings before the same within the meaning of Rule 71. When complainant appealed said order in the same court, after posting a notice of appeal, respondent judge ordered him to submit a record on appeal. Upon failure to do so, respondent judge issued a warrant of arrest against Complainant for which he was arrested and jailed for 1 day with a fine of P10.00.

Thus, Complainant charges respondent judge with gross ignorance of the law, oppressive conduct and abuse of authority when the latter held him in contempt of court on account of the statements he made in his letter-complaint which statements, complainant insists, are absolutely privileged in nature. Complainant further alleges that he filed a notice of appeal from the order of contempt but respondent directed him to submit a record on appeal despite the fact that the same is not required under the rules.

 

Held: GUILTY. Judge B was fined in the amount equivalent to 1-month salary with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more seriously. The Court said that while it is true that the complainant attached the administrative letter-complaint in his letter for respondent judge to inhibit in the criminal case, it was used merely to support his contention in his motion for inhibition. A judge is bound never to consider lightly a motion for his inhibition that questions or puts to doubt, however insignificant, his supposed predilection to a case pending before him. Furthermore, the alleged offensive and contemptuous language contained in the letter-complaint was not directed to the respondent court.

A judge may not hold a party in contempt of court for expressing concern on his impartiality even if the judge may have been insulted therein. While the power to punish in contempt is inherent in all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings and to uphold the due administration of justice, judges, however, should exercise their contempt powers judiciously and sparingly, with utmost restraint, and with the end in view of utilizing their contempt powers for correction and preservation not for retaliation or vindication.

Anent the charge of gross ignorance of the law in requiring complainant to submit a record on appeal, we find the respondent judge’s order to be not it accord with the established rule on the matter. Contempt proceedings is not one of those instances where a record on appeal is required to perfect an appeal. Thus, when the law is elementary, so elementary, not to know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Misrepresentation and Non-payment of IBP Dues

Soliman M. Santos, Jr. v. Atty. Francisco R. Llamas

A.C. No. 4749. January 20, 2000

Facts: Complaint for misrepresentation and non-payment of bar membership dues. It appears that Atty. Llamas, who for a number of years now, has not indicated the proper PTR and IBP OR Nos. and data in his pleadings. If at all, he only indicated “IBP Rizal 259060” but he has been using this for at least 3 years already. On the other hand, respondent, who is now of age, averred that he is only engaged in a “limited” practice of law and under RA 7432, as a senior citizen, he is exempted from payment of income taxes and included in this exemption is the payment of membership dues.

Held: GUILTY. Rule 139-A requires that every member of the Integrated Bar shall pay annual dues and default thereof for six months shall warrant suspension of membership and if nonpayment covers a period of 1-year, default shall be a ground for removal of the delinquent’s name from the Roll of Attorneys. It does not matter whether or not respondent is only engaged in “limited” practice of law. Moreover, the exemption invoked by respondent does not include exemption from payment of membership or association dues.

            In addition, by indicating “IBP Rizal 259060” in his pleadings and thereby misprepresenting to the public and the courts that he had paid his IBP dues to the Rizal Chpater, respondent is guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility which provides: Rule 1.01 – A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. His act is also a violation of Rule 10.01 which provides that: A lawyer shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any in court; nor mislead or allow the court to be misled by any artifice.

            Lawyer was suspended for 1 year or until he has paid his IBP dues, whichever is later.

 

Source:

Legal Ethics Digests

Ateneo Central Bar Ops 2001

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Duty of Lawyer to Client/Proper Conduct

Teodoro R. Rivera vs. Atty. Sergio Angeles

A.C. No. 2519. August 29, 2000

Facts: Atty. Sergio Angeles was the legal counsel of Teodoro Rivera and 2 others in a civil case. Rivera and his 2 co-plaintiffs received a favorable decision. Atty. Angeles received almost PhP 50,000 from one of the defendants in the case as partial fulfillment of the judgement against the latter. Atty. Angeles, however, never told his clients of the amount he had received and never remitted the same to him, leaving them to discover such fact on their own. Rivera and his co-plaintiffs filed an administrative complaint for disbarment against Atty. Angeles.

Held: GUILTY. Atty. Angeles was not disbarred but the Court ruled that his act amounted to serious misconduct. The Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of integrity and good moral character as part of a lawyer’s equipment in the practice of his profession. For it cannot be denied that the respect of litigants for the profession is inexorably diminished whenever a member of the Bar betrays their trust and confidence. The Court is not oblivious of the right of a lawyer to be paid for the legal services he has extended to his client but such right should not be exercised whimsically by appropriating to himself the money intended for his clients. There should never be an instance where the victor in litigation loses everything he won to the fees of his own lawyer. For deceit in dealing with his client, Atty. Angeles was suspended from the practice of law for 1 year.

 

Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. vs. Attys. Antonio M. Llorente and Ligaya P. Salayon

A.C. No. 4690. August 29, 2000

Facts: Attys. Antonio Llorente and Ligaya Salayon were election officers of the COMELEC and held the position of Chairman and Vice-Chairman respectively for the Pasig City Board of Candidates. The respondents helped conduct and oversee the 1995 elections. Then Senatorial candidate Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. alleged that the respondents tampered with the votes received by them by either adding more votes for particular candidates in their Statement of Votes (SoV) or reducing the number of votes of particular candidates in their SoV. Pimentel filed an administrative complaint for their disbarment. Respondents argued that the discrepancies were due to honest mistake, oversight and fatigue. Respondents also argued that the IBP Board of Governors had already exonerated them from any offense and that the motion for reconsideration filed by Pimentel was not filed in time.

Held: GUILTY. Respondents do not dispute the fact that massive irregularities attended the canvassing of the Pasig City election returns. The only explanation they could offer for such irregularities is that the same could be due to honest mistake, human error, and/or fatigue on the part of the members of the canvassing committees who prepared the SoVs. There is a limit, we believe, to what can be construed as an honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, in the performance of official duty. The sheer magnitude of the error renders the defense of honest mistake or oversight due to fatigue, as incredible and simply unacceptable. Indeed, what is involved here is not just a case of mathematical error in the tabulation of votes per precinct as reflected in the election returns and the subsequent entry of the erroneous figures in one or two SoVs but a systematic scheme to pad the votes of certain senatorial candidates at the expense of the petitioner in complete disregard of the tabulation in the election returns. A lawyer who holds a government position may not be disciplined as a member of the bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official. However, if the misconduct also constitutes a violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility or the lawyer’s oath or is of such character as to affect his qualification as a lawyer or shows moral delinquency on his part, such individual may be disciplined as a member of the bar for such misconduct. Here, by certifying as true and correct the SoVs in question, respondents committed a breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code which stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in “unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct.” By express provision of Canon 6, this is made applicable to lawyers in the government service. In addition, they likewise violated their oath of office as lawyers to “do no falsehood.” The Court found the respondents guilty of misconduct and fined them PhP 10,000 each and issued a stern warning that similar conduct in the future will be severely punished.

 

Source:

Legal Ethics Digests

Ateneo Central Bar Ops 2001

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Duty to Client/Accounting of Client’s Money/Negligence

Teodulfo B. Basas vs. Atty. Miguel I. Icawat

A.C. No. 4282. August 24, 2000

Facts: Atty. Miguel Icawat was the lawyer for Teodulfo Basas and some other laborers in their complaint against their employer. The NLRC rendered an adverse decision. Basas and his fellow workers, however, insisted that they appeal the decision. Atty. Icawat, however, failed to file the required memorandum of appeal. Basas filed an administrative complaint, also alleging that Atty. Icawat issued a receipt for an amount less than that which they had paid him.

Held: GUILTY. Respondent’s failure to file the memorandum of appeal required by the NLRC Rules of Procedure reveals his poor grasp of labor law. Respondent practically admitted that he did not file the memorandum. His failure to file the memorandum clearly prejudiced the interests of his clients. Respondent manifestly fell short of the diligence required of his profession, in violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. For his failure to issue the proper receipt for the money he received from his clients, respondent also violated Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which states that a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client. The Court fined Atty. Icawat in the amount of PhP 500, with a warning that a repetition of the same offense or a similar misconduct will be dealt with more severely.

 

Source:

Legal Ethics Digests

Ateneo Central Bar Ops 2001

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Duty to the Court/Negligence of a Lawyer

In Re: Vicente Y. Bayani

A.C. No. 5307. August 9, 2000

Facts: Atty. Vicente Bayani was the lawyer for the appellant in a criminal case. He failed to submit his proof of service in his appellant’s brief which subsequently caused the inability of the appellee to file his own brief. The IBP was order to investigate on the matter and despite repeated notices, Bayani failed to submit the proof of service and his answer to the IBP’s query. Hence, this administrative complaint.

Held: GUILTY. Atty. Bayani’s failure to submit proof of service of appellant’s brief and his failure to submit the required comment manifest willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the Supreme Court, a clear violation of the canons of professional ethics. It appears that Atty. Bayani has fallen short of the circumspection required of a member of the Bar. A counsel must always remember that his actions or omissions are binding on his clients. A lawyer owes his client the exercise of utmost prudence and capability in that representation. Further, lawyers are expected to be acquainted with the rudiments of law and legal procedure and anyone who deals with them has the right to expect not just a good amount of professional learning and competence but also a whole-hearted fealty to his client’s cause. Having been remiss in his duty to the Court and to the Bar, Atty. Bayani was suspended from the practice of law for 3 months and until the time he complies with the Order of the Supreme Court to submit the required proof of service.

 

Source:

Legal Ethics Digests

Ateneo Central Bar Ops 2001