Legal & Judicial Ethics Case Digests (January 2014 - January 2015)

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Legal and Judicial Ethics

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<ul><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>UNIVERSITY OF CEBU COLLEGE OF LAW </p><p> LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS CASES </p><p>January 2014 January 2015 </p><p>Submitted by: </p><p>1. ABING, PATRICK LLB-3 2. ALABASTRO, MARK VINCENT JD-2 3. BALANAG, JUSTINE MARIE JD-3 4. CAPUTOL, DANICA PATRICIA LLB-3 5. DIONGZON, LORRAINE JD-2 6. GULBIN, LOU ANN LLB-3 7. LERIO, EARL CHRISTIAN JD-3 8. LUSPO, ARGELYN LLB-4 9. MAGDOZA, BREGETTE LLB-3 10. MAGLASANG, LAARNI LLB-3 11. MAHUSAY, MARIANNE AUDREY LLB-3 12. SANTOS, CHRISTINA JD-3 13. SAORNIDO, FERDINAND III LLB-3 14. TIRADO, ADRIANNE LLB-3 15. TOMONGLAY, NOEL LLB-3 16. URSAL, APRIL LYNN LLB-3 </p><p>Submitted to: ATTY. STEPHEN L. YU, CPA </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>JANUARY 2014 1. A.C. No. 5581 January 14, 2014 ROSE BUNAGAN-BANSIG, Complainant, vs. ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A. CELERA, Respondent. Legal Ethics: Rule 1.01, Canon 7; Rule 7.03 FACTS: Rose Bunagan-Bansig filed a complaint against respondent Atty. Rogelio Juan A. Celera for Gross Immoral Conduct. On May 8, 1997, Atty. Celera and Gracemarie R. Bunagan (Bunagan), entered into a contract of marriage, as evidenced by a certified xerox copy of the certificate of marriage issued by the City Civil Registry of Manila. Bansig is the sister of Gracemarie, legal wife of respondent. However, Atty. Celera contracted another marriage on January 8, 1998 with a certain Ma. Cielo Paz Torres Alba, as evidenced by a certified xerox copy of the certificate of marriage issued by the City Registration Officer of San Juan, Manila. Bansig stressed that the marriage between Atty. Celera and Bunagan was still valid and in full legal existence when he contracted his second marriage with Alba, and that the first marriage had never been annulled or rendered void by any lawful authority. Despite repeated summons and resolutions issued by the Court, Atty. Celera failed to properly answer the complaint. The complaint dragged on for over a decade. ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Celera is guilty of grossly immoral conduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders. RULING: Yes. In the instant case, there is a preponderance of evidence that respondent contracted a second marriage despite the existence of his first marriage. The certified xerox copies of the marriage contracts, issued by a public officer in custody thereof, are admissible as the best evidence of their contents, as provided for under Section 7 of Rule 130 of the Rules of Court. For purposes of this disbarment proceeding, these Marriage Certificates bearing the name of respondent are competent and convincing evidence to prove that he committed bigamy, which renders him unfit to continue as a member of the Bar. </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>The Code of Professional Responsibility provides: </p><p>Rule 1.01- A lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. Canon 7- A lawyer shall at all times uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession, and support the activities of the Integrated Bar. Rule 7.03- A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor should he, whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession. </p><p> Respondent exhibited a deplorable lack of that degree of morality required of him as a member of the Bar. He made a mockery of marriage, a sacred institution demanding respect and dignity. His act of contracting a second marriage while his first marriage is subsisting constituted grossly immoral conduct and are grounds for disbarment under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court. This case cannot be fully resolved, however, without addressing rather respondents defiant stance against the Court as demonstrated by his repetitive disregard of its Resolution requiring him to file his comment on the complaint. This case has dragged on since 2002. In the span of more than 10 years, the Court has issued numerous directives for respondent's compliance, but respondent seemed to have pre-selected only those he will take notice of and the rest he will just ignore. The Court has issued several resolutions directing respondent to comment on the complaint against him, yet, to this day, he has not submitted any answer thereto. He claimed to have not received a copy of the complaint, thus, his failure to comment on the complaint against him. Ironically, however, whenever it is a show cause order, none of them have escaped respondent's attention. Even assuming that indeed the copies of the complaint had not reached him, he cannot, however, feign ignorance that there is a complaint against him that is pending before this Court which he could have easily obtained a copy had he wanted to. Clearly, respondent's acts constitute willful disobedience of the lawful orders of this Court, which under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court is in itself alone a sufficient cause for suspension or disbarment. Respondents cavalier attitude in repeatedly ignoring the orders of the Supreme Court constitutes utter disrespect to the judicial institution. Respondents conduct indicates a high degree of irresponsibility. We have repeatedly held that a Courts Resolution is "not to be construed as a mere request, nor should it be complied with partially, inadequately, or selectively." Respondents obstinate refusal to comply with the Courts orders "not only betrays a recalcitrant flaw in his character; it also underscores his disrespect of the Court's lawful orders which is only too deserving of reproof." Considering respondent's propensity to disregard not only the laws of the land but also the lawful orders of the Court, it only shows him to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity and good demeanor. He is, thus, unworthy to continue as an officer of the court. </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>The respondent ATTY. ROGELIO JUAN A. CELERA is guilty of grossly immoral conduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders rendering him unworthy of continuing membership in the legal profession. He is thus ordered DISBARRED from the practice of law and his name stricken of the Roll of Attorneys, effective immediately. 2. A.C. No. 10135 January 15, 2014 EDGARDO AREOLA, Complainant, vs. ATTY. MARIA VILMA MENDOZA, Respondent. Legal Ethics: Rule 1.02 and Rule 15.07 FACTS: Edgardo D. Areola a.k.a. Muhammad Khadafy filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Maria Vilma Mendoza, from the Public Attorneys Office for violation of her attorneys oath of office, deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in office under Section 27, Rule 138 of the Revised Rules of Court, and for violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility. Areola stated that he was filing the complaint in behalf of his co-detainees Allan Seronda, Aaron Arca, Joselito Mirador, Spouses Danilo Perez and Elizabeth Perez. He alleged that on October 23, 2006, during Prisoners Week, Atty. Mendoza, visited the Antipolo City Jail and called all detainees with pending cases before the RTC, Branch 73, Antipolo City where she was assigned, to attend her speech/lecture. Areola claimed that Atty. Mendoza stated the following during her speech: </p><p>"O kayong may mga kasong drugs na may pangpiyansa o pang- areglo ay maging praktikal sana kayo kung gusto ninyong makalaya agad. Upang makatiyak kayo na hindi masasayang ang pera ninyo ay sa akin ninyo ibigay o ng kamag-anak ninyo ang pera at ako na ang bahalang maglagay kay Judge Martin at Fiscal Banqui; at kayong mga detenidong mga babae na no bail ang kaso sa drugs, iyak-iyakan lang ninyo si Judge Martin at palalayain na kayo. Malambot ang puso noon." </p><p> ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Mendoza is giving improper advice to her clients in violation of Rule 1.02 and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. RULING: The Court agrees with the IBP Board of Governors that Atty. Mendoza made irresponsible advices to her clients in violation of Rule 1.02 and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It is the mandate of Rule 1.02 that "a lawyer shall not counsel or abet activities aimed at defiance of the law or at lessening confidence in the legal system." Rule 15.07 states that "a lawyer shall impress upon his client compliance with the laws and the principles of fairness." </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>Atty. Mendozas improper advice only lessens the confidence of the public in our legal system. Judges must be free to judge, without pressure or influence from external forces or factors according to the merits of a case. Atty. Mendozas careless remark is uncalled for. In spite of the foregoing, the Court deems the penalty of suspension for two months as excessive and not commensurate to Atty. Mendozas infraction. Disbarment and suspension of a lawyer, being the most severe forms of disciplinary sanction, should be imposed with great caution and only in those cases where the misconduct of the lawyer as an officer of the court and a member of the bar is established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof. The Court notes that when Atty. Mendoza made the remark "Iyak-iyakan lang ninyo si Judge Martin at palalayain na kayo. Malambot ang puso noon", she was not compelled by bad faith or malice. While her remark was inappropriate and unbecoming, her comment is not disparaging and reproachful so as to cause dishonor and disgrace to the Judiciary. In several administrative cases, the Court has refrained from imposing the actual penalties in the presence of mitigating factors. Factors such as the respondents length of service, the respondents acknowledgement of his or her infractions and feeling of remorse, family circumstances, humanitarian and equitable considerations, respondents advanced age, among other things, have had varying significance in the Courts determination of the imposable penalty. The Court takes note of Atty. Mendozas lack of ill-motive in the present case and her being a PAO lawyer as her main source of livelihood. Furthermore, the complaint filed by Areola is clearly baseless and the only reason why this was ever given consideration was due to Atty. Mendozas own admission. For these reasons, the Court deems it just to modify and reduce the penalty recommended by the IBP Board of Governors. Accordingly, the Court finds Atty. Maria Vilma Mendoza GUILTY of giving improper advice to her clients in violation of Rule 1.02 and Rule 15.07 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and is accordingly meted out the penalty of REPRIMAND, with the STERN WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely. 3. A.C. No. 8644 January 22, 2014 AIDA R. CAMPOS, ALISTAIR R. CAMPOS and CHARMAINE R. CAMPOS, Complainant, vs. ATTY. ELISEO M. CAMPOS, Respondent. Legal Ethics: Rule 7.03, Canon 7; Rule 7.03, Canon 737 FACTS: A complaint for disbarment on grounds of serious misconduct, immorality and dishonesty is filed against Atty. Eliseo M. Campos, former presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court of Bayugan, Agusan del Sur. The complainants herein are his wife, Aida R. Campos, and their children, Alistair R. Campos and Charmaine R. Campos. </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>Eliseo and Aida were married in 1981. Alistair was born in 1982, and Charmaine, in 1986. In 1999, Eliseo purchased by installment a 936-square meter lot in Bayugan. Eliseo thereafter applied for the issuance of a title in Alistairs name. Alistair was then a student without an income and a capacity to buy the property. In 2006, Original Certificate of Title covering the property was issued in Alistairs name. In 2008, Eliseo filed a Petition for the Declaration of Nullity of Marriage. He alleged that both he and Aida are psychologically incapacitated to comply with essential marital obligations. He claimed that during the first few days of their marriage, he realized that he finds no gratification in engaging in sexual intercourse with his wife. He alleged that he is a homosexual. He likewise ascribed acts of infidelity to Aida. In Sept. 2008, Eliseo executed an Affidavit of Loss wherein he represented himself as the owner of the property covered by OCT No. P-28258. He declared that he unknowingly lost the owners certificate of title which used to be in his files. Alistair refuted Eliseos representations. In Nov. 2008, Alistair filed a complaint for perjury against Eliseo. Alistair stated that the owners copy of OCT No. P-28258 was in his possession. Eliseo was aware of such fact, but he still deliberately and maliciously asserted a falsehood. In 2009, Aida filed a Complaint for Legal Separation, Support and Separation of Conjugal Properties against Eliseo. Aida alleged that Eliseo confessed under oath that he is a homosexual. However, Eliseo, in effect, contradicted the said confession when he admitted to Alistair and Charmaine that he was then intimately involved with another woman. Aida likewise claimed that Eliseo is temperamental and had stopped giving support to their family. In April 2009, Aida, Alistair and Charmaine filed before the Office of the Court Administrator an administrative complaint for serious misconduct, immorality and dishonesty against Eliseo. Formal investigation was thereafter conducted. Pending the resolution of the above-mentioned administrative complaint, Eliseo resigned from his judicial post on July 1, 2009. After the conclusion of a hearing on Eliseos Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage, Judge Eduardo Casals called the parties for a conference in his chamber. A scuffle ensued inside the chamber. The police blotter filed promptly after the incident indicated that Eliseo choked Charmaine and attempted to box but failed to hit Alistair. In June 2010, Aida, Alistair and Charmaine filed the instant complaint for disbarment against Eliseo. They alleged that Eliseo committed acts of dishonesty, immorality and serious misconduct in. </p></li><li><p>TAXATION II CLASS (A.Y. 2014-2015) </p><p>ISSUES: Whether or not Eliseo committed acts of dishonesty, immorality and serious misconduct in: (1) causing the issuance of OCT No. P-28258 in Alistairs name; (2) subsequently misrepresenting himself as the real owner of the lot covered by OCT No. P-28258; (3) falsely declaring under oath in the Affidavit of Loss that the owner's copy of OCT No. P-28258 is missing despite his knowledge that the said title is with Alistair; (4) stating in his Petition for Declaration of Nullity of Marriage that he is a homosexual albeit admitting to his children that he has an intimate relation with another woman; and (5) choking and boxing his children. RULING: Of the five issues raised herein, only the allegation of Eliseos engagement in the scuffle inside the chamber of Judge Casals shall be resolved. The Court, on February 8, 2012, had already imposed upon Eliseo a fine of Php20,000 for simple misconduct in causing the issuance of OCT No. P-28258 in Alistairs name when the subject property actually belongs to the...</p></li></ul>