Pandemic rulings: Lawyers, censured, suspended, disbarred

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - January 19, 2021 - 12:00am

It is not easy to live the life of a lawyer. If you are not killed, ambushed, or kidnapped, you will be reprimanded, suspended, or even disbarred. After eight years of rigorous studies, one year of pre-Bar review and after thousands of sleepless nights, all these could come to naught due to a decision of disbarment coming from the Supreme Court.

It is sad enough that many practicing lawyers are losing income due to the pandemic, as many client companies have closed or gone bankrupt. It is even sadder that from January to December 2020, more than 20 lawyers lost their license, about 300 were suspended and more than 600 were sternly warned, reprimanded, and censured for violating the canons of the Code of Professional Responsibility. I am interested in these statistics because I am teaching in the colleges of Law in Metro Manila, not only Labor Law, which is my passion, but also Legal Ethics, which is my vocation. I am teaching good manners, right conduct, values, character, etiquette, and social graces to young and aspiring future lawyers. In fact, I just wrote and published a 1,100-page book on molding the character of great Filipino lawyers.

On October 6, 2020, the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of a lawyer (AC 12086) for falsifying a court decision in a marriage annulment case in Metro Manila. Earlier, on July 14, 2020, the highest court of the land disbarred two lawyers, both husband and wife (AC 11118) for dishonesty and grave misconduct in connection with a failed real estate transaction. They were ordered to return P4 million to the complainants. In another case, three incumbent associate justices of the Court of Appeals, led by the wife of the incumbent chief justice, filed a formal complaint against a former personnel for grave dishonesty and misconduct. The female lawyer was disbarred (AC 12415). These are very demoralizing because these cases involved money and put in bad light the reputation of the legal profession in general.

In another case, a lawyer was disbarred because he abandoned his lawful wife, lived with another woman, and neglected his family (AC 7733). On January 7, 2020, another lawyer (AC 9459) was disbarred for committing immorality by abandoning his legal spouse and cohabiting with the wife of his client. He also got very harsh words of condemnation from the Supreme Court. On October 7, 2020, Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta wrote a decision ordering the suspension of another lawyer (AC 10699) for violating the lawyer's oath, and for committing dishonest, deceitful, and fraudulent acts in connection with his clients' real estate transaction. On September 14, 2020, a female lawyer (AC 10738) was suspended with a very stern warning for multiple violations of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Another female lawyer who was disbarred (AC 12458) earlier, was again found guilty of practicing law even after her disbarment. For various violations of the Notarial Law, a number of lawyers were suspended and warned sternly that a repetition of the same might result in disbarment. This included one suspended on September 16, 2020. Another was suspended on July 7, 2020 (AC 11870), and still another (AC 12551) for the same offenses. We, lawyers, are governed by strict rules on legal ethics. We are supposed to uphold the Constitution, obey the laws of the land, and promote respect for law and for the legal profession. We are duty-bound to hold in trust all money and properties belonging to our client, and we are not allowed to delay any man for money or for malice.

And so, you, dear non-lawyers, out there, even as we admit that indeed, there are wayward souls in the legal profession, they constitute a small minority of less than 1% among all lawyers. The large majority have remained faithful to the trust of the courts, the clients, and the law.

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