Uy v Tasinsin (2009) A.C. No. 8252, July 21, 2009

Fact: Complainant was the defendant in an ejectment case filed with the MeTC. To defend her rights, complainant engaged the services of respondent who timely filed an Answer to the complaint for ejectment. Required to file a Position Paper, respondent, however, failed to file one for and on behalf of the complainant. Eventually, a decision was rendered by the MeTC against the complainant. Complainant, through respondent, elevated the case to the RTC by filing a Notice of Appeal. The RTC dismissed the appeal solely because of the failure of respondent to file a memorandum on appeal. The motion for reconsideration was likewise denied for having been filed out of time. Realizing that she lost her case because of the negligence of her counsel, complainant initiated the disbarment case against respondent, before the IBP Committee on Bar Discipline (CBD). Complainant averred that she gave her full trust and confidence to respondent, but the latter failed miserably in his duty as a lawyer and advocate. She also claimed that respondent’s failure to file the required position paper and memorandum on appeal constituted gross incompetence and gross negligence, which caused grave injury to complainant. Lastly, complainant alleged that not only did respondent fail to file the required pleadings, he also was remiss in informing her of the status of the case. Respondent admitted that complainant obtained his legal services, but no legal fee was ever paid to him. Respondent explained that he could not submit an intelligible position paper, because the contract between complainant and her lessor had long expired. He added that he failed to file the position paper and memorandum on appeal, because complainant told him that she would work out the transfer of ownership to her of the land subject matter of the ejectment case. In effect, respondent said that he did not submit the required pleadings, because he knew that the law favored the plaintiff as against the defendant (complainant herein) in the ejectment case.

Issue: Whether the respondent, due to his failure to file the required position paper on time, violated his Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Held: Yes, the court sustain the Resolution of the IBP Board of Governors except on the imposition of the six-month suspension. Verily, respondent’s failure to file the required pleadings and to inform his client about the developments in her case fall below the standard exacted upon lawyers on dedication and commitment to their client’s cause. Every case a lawyer accepts deserves his full attention, diligence, skill and competence, regardless of its importance, and whether he accepts it for a fee or for free. A lawyer should serve his client in a conscientious, diligent and efficient manner; and he should provide a quality of service at least equal to that which he, himself, would expect of a competent lawyer in a like situation. By agreeing to be his client’s counsel, he represents that he will exercise ordinary diligence or that reasonable degree of care and skill demanded by the character of the business he undertakes to do, to protect the client’s interests and take all steps or do all acts necessary therefor; and his client may reasonably expect him to discharge his obligations diligently. It must be recalled that the MeTC (in the ejectment case) required the parties to submit their respective position papers. However, respondent did not bother to do so, in total disregard of the court order. In addition, respondent failed to file the memorandum on appeal this time with the RTC where complainant’s appeal was then pending. The Civil Case was, therefore, dismissed on that ground alone. The importance of filing a memorandum on appeal cannot be gainsaid. The appellant is duty-bound to submit his memorandum on appeal. Such submission is not a matter of discretion on his part. His failure to comply with this mandate or to perform this duty will compel the RTC to dismiss his appeal. Respondent’s failure to file the required pleadings is per se a violation of Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Resposibility19 which states that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable. Aside from failing to file the required pleadings, respondent also lacked candor in dealing with his client, as he omitted to apprise complainant of the status of her ejectment case. It bears stressing that the lawyer-client relationship is one of trust and confidence. Thus, there is a need for the client to be adequately and fully informed about the developments in his case. A client should never be left groping in the dark, for to do so would be to destroy the trust, faith, and confidence reposed in the lawyer so retained in particular and in the legal profession in general.

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