CRUZ v. MINA – G.R. No. 154207, April 27, 2007

Fact:
Ferdinand A. Cruz (petitioner) filed before the MeTC a formal Entry of Appearance, as private prosecutor for Grave Threats, where his father, Mariano Cruz, is the complaining witness. The petitioner, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his appearance as private prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court and the ruling of the Court En Banc in Cantimbuhan v. Judge Cruz, Jr.2 that a non-lawyer may appear before the inferior courts as an agent or friend of0020a party litigant. The petitioner furthermore avers that his appearance was with the prior conformity of the public prosecutor and a written authority of Mariano Cruz appointing him to be his agent in the prosecution of the said criminal case.
However the MeTC denied permission for petitioner to appear as private prosecutor on the ground that Circular No. 19 governing limited law student practice in conjunction with Rule 138-A of the Rules of Court (Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence over the ruling of the Court laid down in Cantimbuhan. Petitioner filed before the MeTC a Motion for Reconsideration seeking to reverse the February 1, 2002 Order alleging that Rule 138-A, or the Law Student Practice Rule, does not have the effect of superseding Section 34 of Rule 138, for the authority to interpret the rule is the source itself of the rule, which is the Supreme Court alone. The MeTC denied the Motion for Reconsideration.
The petitioner filed before the RTC a Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus with Prayer for Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against the private respondent and the public respondent MeTC. RTC denied the petition of the petitioner and its Motion for Reconsideration.

Issue:
Whether the petitioner, a law student, may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party litigant.

Held:
Yes, Section 34, Rule 138 is clear that appearance before the inferior courts by a non-lawyer is allowed, irrespective of whether or not he is a law student. As succinctly clarified in Bar Matter No. 730, by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a law student may appear, as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without the supervision of a lawyer before inferior courts. There is really no problem as to the application of Section 34 of Rule 138 and Rule 138-A. In the former, the appearance of a non-lawyer, as an agent or friend of a party litigant, is expressly allowed, while the latter rule provides for conditions when a law student, not as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, may appear before the courts.

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