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Canon 22.

A lawyer shall withdraw his services only for good cause and upon notice
appropriate in the circumstances.

CAUSES OF TERMINATION OF ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP


(1) Withdrawal of the lawyer;
(2) Death of the lawyer;
(3) Disbarment or suspension of the lawyer from the practice of law;
(4) Declaration of presumptive death of the lawyer;
(5) Conviction of a crime and imprisonment of the lawyer;
(6) Discharge or dismissal of the lawyer by the client;
(7) Appointment or election of a lawyer to a government position which prohibits private practice
of law;
(8) Death of the client;
(9) Intervening incapacity or incompetence of the client during pendency of case;
(10) Full termination of the case.

GENERAL RULE: The client has the right to discharge his attorney at any time with or without
just cause or even against his consent.

Exceptions:
(1) The client cannot deprive his counsel of right to be paid services if the dismissal is without
cause.
(2) The client cannot discharge his counsel as an excuse to secure repeated extensions of time.
(3) Notice of discharge is required for both the court and the adverse party.

CIRCUMSTANCES WHEN A LAWYER MAY WITHDRAW HIS SERVICES:

Rule 22.01. A lawyer may withdraw his services in any of the following cases:

(a) When the client pursues an illegal or immoral course of conduct in connection with
the matter he is handling;
(b) When the client insists that the lawyer pursue conduct violative of these canons and
rules;
(c) When his inability to work with co-counsel will not promote the best interest of the
client;
(d) When the mental or physical condition of the lawyer renders it difficult for him to carry
out the employment effectively;
(e) When the client deliberately fails to pay the fees for the services or fails to comply
with the retainer agreement;
(f) When the lawyer is elected or appointed to public office; and
(g) Other similar cases.

Rule 22.02. A lawyer who withdraws or is discharged shall, subject to a retaining lien,
immediately turn over all papers and property to which the client is entitled, and shall cooperate
with his successor in the orderly transfer of the matter, including all information necessary for
the proper handling of the matter.

REQUIREMENTS OF A VALID SUBSTITUTION OF COUNSEL


(1) The filing of a written application for substitution;
(2) The clients written consent;
(3) The consent of the substituted lawyer if such consent can be obtained; and, in case such
written consent cannot be procured;
(4) A proof of service of notice of such motion on the attorney to be substituted in the manner
required by the Rules (Heirs of Retuya v. CA (2011); Section 26, Rule 138).

CASES:

Teresita D. Santeco vs. Atty. Luna B. Avance

Facts: Complainant terminated the services of her then counsel and engaged the services of
respondent Atty. Luna B. Avance as her counsel de parte in a civil case. Complainant agreed to
and did pay respondent P12,000.00 as acceptance fee for her services. Incomplainant paid
respondent the sums of P1,500.00 and P500.00 respectively in full satisfaction of their
acceptance fee. However, respondent refused to issue to complainant the corresponding
receipts therefor, despite demands to do so.

Respondent made representations with complainant that she was going to file a petition for
certiorari with CA, assailing the dismissal of the civil case. For the proposed service, respondent
charged complainant the total sum of P3,900.00, which the latter paid. However, no such
petition had been filed.

Complainant further averred that respondent told her to go to the court to claim the check
for the supersedeas bond and have the same encashed with the Landbank. However, upon
verification with the MTC, she discovered that there was no such check and that she needs to
present the official receipt to withdraw said deposit. She tried to recover the official receipt from
respondent but the latter kept avoiding her.

Issue: Whether or not Atty. Avance should be disbarred.

Held: Aggravating her gross negligence in the performance of her duties, respondent abruptly
stopped appearing as complainants counsel even as proceedings were still pending with neither
a withdrawal nor an explanation for doing so. This was in gross violation of the following:

Canon 22. A lawyer shall withdraw his services only for good cause and upon notice
appropriate in the circumstances.

It must be remembered that while the right of the client to terminate the relation is absolute, i.e.,
with or without cause, the right of the attorney to withdraw or terminate the relation other than
for sufficient cause is considerably restricted. Among the fundamental rules of ethics is the
principle that an attorney who undertakes to conduct an action impliedly stipulates to carry it to
its termination. He is not at liberty to abandon it without reasonable cause.

The grounds wherein a lawyer may withdraw his services are well-defined, and the abruptness
of respondents withdrawal hardly fits into any of them. Be that as it may, whether or not a lawyer
has a valid cause for withdrawing from a case, he can not just do so and leave the client out in
the cold unprotected. An attorney may only retire from a case either by written consent of his
client or by permission of the court after due notice and hearing, in which event the lawyer
should see to it that the name of the new counsel is recorded in the case.

The inevitable conclusion is that respondent gravely abused the confidence that complainant
reposed in her and with palpable bad faith. Her persistent refusal to comply with lawful orders
directed at her without any explanation for doing so, is contumacious conduct which merits no
compassion.

A lawyer has the duty to uphold the integrity and dignity of the legal profession at all times and
to faithfully perform her duties to society, to the bar, to the courts and to her clients. We cannot
tolerate any misconduct that tends to besmirch the fair name of an honorable profession.

All told, respondent has dismally failed to do her duty to her client and has clearly violated the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Respondents actions erode the public perception of the
legal profession. They constitute gross misconduct, and the sanctions for such malfeasance is
provided by Section 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court which states:

SEC. 27. Disbarment and suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court, grounds therefore. A
member of the bar may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme
Court for any deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral
conduct or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of
the oath which he is required to take before the admission to practice, or for a willful
disobedience appearing as attorney for a party without authority to do so.

Respondent is suspended for five (5) years.

Case No. 22. Maria Earl Beverly C. Ceniza vs. Atty. Vivian G. Rubia (2009)

Facts:

On May 3, 2002, Maria Earl Beverly C. Ceniza, complainant, sought the legal services of
the Atty. Vivian G. Rubia, respondent, in regard to the share of her mother-in-law in the estate of
her husband Carlos Ceniza. As she had no money to pay for attorney's fees since her mother-
in-law would arrive from the United States only in June 2002, respondent made her sign a
promissory note for P32,000.00, which amount was lent by Domingo Natavio. After her mother-
in-law arrived and paid the loan, respondent furnished them a copy of the complaint for partition
and recovery of ownership/possession representing legitime but with no docket number on it.
They kept on following up the progress of the complaint. However, three months lapsed before
respondent informed them that it was already filed in court. It was then that they received a copy
of the complaint with "Civil Case No. 4198" and a rubber stamped "RECEIVED" thereon.
However, when complainant verified the status of the case with the Clerk of Court of the
Regional Trial Court of Davao del Sur, she was informed that no case with said title and docket
number was filed.
Further, complainant alleged that respondent was guilty of gross ignorance of the law for
intending to file the complaint in Davao del Sur when the properties to be recovered were
located in Koronadal, South Cotabato and Malungon, Sarangani Province, in violation of the rule
on venue that real actions shall be filed in the place where the property is situated. Complainant
also alleged that respondent forged the signature of her husband, Carlito C. Ceniza, in the
Affidavit of Loss attached to a petition for the issuance of a new owner's duplicate certificate of
title filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Digos City, Branch 20, in Misc. Case No. 114-
2202. On July 25, 2003 filed with the Office of the Bar Confidant, Maria Earl Beverly C. Ceniza
charged Atty. Vivian G. Rubia with grave misconduct, gross ignorance of the law and falsification
of public documents.

Issue:

Whether or not the respondent violated Canon 18 and Canon 22 of the Code of
Professional Responsibility.

Held:

Yes. In accusing respondent of falsification of public document, complainant alleged that


respondent misrepresented to her that the complaint was already filed in court, when in fact,
upon verification with the Regional Trial Court Clerk of Court, it was not. Such misrepresentation
is shown by the copy of the complaint with a stamped "RECEIVED" and docket number thereon.
Apart from said allegations, complainant has not proferred any proof tending to show that
respondent deliberately falsified a public document.

A perusal of the records shows that complainant's evidence consists solely of her
Affidavit-Complaint and the annexes attached therewith. She did not appear in all the mandatory
conferences set by the investigating commissioner in order to give respondent the chance to
test the veracity of her assertions. It is one thing to allege gross misconduct, ignorance of the
law or falsification of public document and another to demonstrate by evidence the specific acts
constituting the same.

Indeed, complainant has no way of knowing the surrounding circumstances behind the
filing of the complaint by respondent's staff because she was not present when the same was
filed with the trial court. Complainant failed to disprove by preponderant evidence respondent's
claim that the case was not filed but was in fact withdrawn after it was stamped with
"RECEIVED" and assigned with a docket number. The Supreme Court find this explanation
satisfactory and plausible considering that the stamp did not bear the signature of the receiving
court personnel, which is normally done when pleadings are received by the court. Further, the
certification of the RTC Clerk of Court that the complaint was not filed and that "CIVIL CASE
NO. 4198" pertained to another case, did not diminish the truthfulness of respondent's claim, but
even tended to bolster it. Necessarily, as the complaint was not filed, docket number "4198"
indicated in the copy of the complaint was assigned to another case thereafter filed in court.
Thus, for lack of preponderant evidence, the investigating commissioner's ruling that respondent
was guilty of falsification of public document, as adopted by the IBP Board of Governors, has no
factual basis to stand on.
However, the Supreme Court finds that respondent committed some acts for which she
should be disciplined or administratively sanctioned. The Supreme Court found nothing illegal or
reprehensible in respondent's act of charging an acceptance fee of P32,000.00, which amount
appears to be reasonable under the circumstances. The impropriety lies in the fact that she
suggested that complainant borrow money from Domingo Natavio for the payment thereof. This
act impresses upon the Court that respondent would do nothing to the cause of complainant's
mother-in-law unless payment of the acceptance fee is made. Her duty to render legal services
to her client with competence and diligence should not depend on the payment of acceptance
fee, which was in this case promised to be paid upon the arrival of complainant's mother-in-law
in June 2002, or barely a month after respondent accepted the case.

Respondent's transgression is compounded further when she severed the lawyer-client


relationship due to overwhelming workload demanded by her new employer Nakayama Group
of Companies, which constrained her to return the money received as well as the records of the
case, thereby leaving her client with no representation. Standing alone, heavy workload is not
sufficient reason for the withdrawal of her services. Moreover, respondent failed to maintain an
open line of communication with her client regarding the status of their complaint. Clearly,
respondent violated the Lawyer's Oath which imposes upon every member of the bar the duty to
delay no man for money or malice, Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of Canon 18, and Canon 22 of the
Code of Professional Responsibility.

IV. SUSPENSION, DISBARMENT, AND DISCIPLINE OF LAWYERS

A. NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF DISCIPLINARY ACTIONS AGAINST LAWYERS

(1) Disciplinary proceedings are sui generis.


(2) They are neither purely civil nor purely criminal. They are not intended to inflict punishment.
(3) They do not involve a trial of an action or a suit, but is rather an investigation by the Court
into the conduct of its officers. There is neither a plaintiff nor a prosecutor.
(4) They may be initiated by the Court motu proprio. The Court merely calls upon a member of
the Bar to account for his actuations as an officer of the Court with the end in view of preserving
the purity of the legal profession and the proper and honest administration of justice in the
exercise of its disciplinary powers.
(5) Public interest is the primary objective, and the real question for determination is whether or
not the attorney is still a fit person to be allowed the privileges as such (In Re: Almacen (1970),
Itong v. Florenido (2011)).

Any interested person or the court motu proprio may initiate disciplinary proceedings. The right
to institute disbarment proceedings is not confined to clients nor is it necessary that the person
complaining suffered injury from the alleged wrongdoing. Disbarment proceedings are matters
of public interest and the only basis for the judgment is the proof or failure of proof of the
charges. (Figueras v. Jimenez (2014))

A.1. CONFIDENTIAL

Rule 139-B, Sec. 18. Proceedings against attorneys shall be private and confidential. However,
the final order of the Supreme Court shall be published like its decisions in other cases.
PURPOSE OF THIS RULE
(1) To enable the Court to make its investigations free from any extraneous influence or
interference;
(2) To protect the personal and professional reputation of attorneys and judges from the
baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive, and irresponsible clients and litigants;
(3) To deter the press from publishing administrative cases or portions thereof without authority
(Saludo, Jr. v. CA (2006)).

In the absence of a legitimate public interest in a disbarment complaint, members of the media
must preserve the confidentiality of disbarment proceedings during its pendency (Fortun v.
Quinsayas (2013)).
Confidentiality is a privilege/right which may be waived by the very lawyer in whom and for the
protection of whose personal and professional reputation it is vested, pursuant to the general
principle that rights may be waived unless the waiver is contrary to public policy, among others
(Villalon v. IAC (1986)).

A.2. OTHER CHARACTERISTICS


(1) Proceedings may be taken by the Supreme Court motu proprio, and the IBP Board of
Governors may also motu proprio initiate and prosecute proper charges against erring attorneys
(Section 1, Rule 139-B).
(2) Investigation is not interrupted or terminated by reason of the desistance, settlement,
compromise, restitution, withdrawal of the charges, or failure of the complainant to prosecute
the same (Sec. 5, Rule 139-B).
(3) Laws dealing with double jeopardy or prescription or with procedure like verification of
pleadings and prejudicial questions have no application to disbarment proceedings (Pimentel,
Jr. v. Llorente (2000)).
(4) The proceedings are distinct from and proceeds independently of civil or criminal cases.
Thus, whatever has been decided in the disbarment case cannot be a source of right that may
be enforced in another action. At best, such judgment may only be given weight when
introduced as evidence, but in no case does it bind the court in the civil action (Esquivas v. CA
(1997)).
(5) The disbarment proceeding does not violate the due process clause. The proceeding itself,
when instituted in proper cases, is due process of law (In Re: Montagne (1904)).
(6) In a disbarment proceeding, it is immaterial that the complainant is in pari delicto because
the proceeding is not to grant relief to the complainant, but to purge the law profession of
unworthy members, to protect the public and the courts (Mortel v. Aspiras (1956)).
(7) The rule in criminal cases that the penalty cannot be imposed in the alternative applies in
administrative disciplinary cases, which also involve punitive sanctions (Navarro v. Meneses III
(1998)).
(8) Monetary claims cannot be granted except restitution and return of monies and properties of
the client given in the course of the lawyer-client relationship

A.3. PRESCRIPTION
Sec. 1, Rule VIII of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission on Bar Discipline, which provided
for a prescription period of two (2) years from the date of the professional misconduct, was
struck down for being ultra vires. (Frias v. Bautista-Lozada (2006))
In Isenhardt v. Real (2012), however, the said prescriptive period was still construed to run from
the discovery of the misconduct.

B. GROUNDS
Rule 138, Sec 27.Attorneys removed or suspended by Supreme Court on what grounds. A
member of the bar may be removed or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme
Court for any deceit, malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral
conduct, or by reason of his conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation
of the oath which he is required to take before the admission to practice, or for a wilfull
disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court, or for corruptly or willful appearing as an
attorney for a party to a case without authority so to do. The practice of soliciting cases at law
for the purpose of gain, either personally or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes
malpractice.
GROUNDS FOR DISBARMENT OR SUSPENSION:
(1) Deceit, malpractice or other gross misconduct in office;
(2) Grossly immoral conduct;
(3) Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;
(4) Any violation of the lawyers oath;
(5) Willful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court;
(6) Corruptly or willfully appearing as an attorney without authority so to do

Deceit is false representation of a matter of fact whether by words or conduct, by false or


misleading allegations, or by concealment of that which should have been disclosed which
deceives or is intended to deceive another so that he shall act upon it to his legal injury
(Alcantara v. CA (2003)).

Malpractice ordinarily refers to any malfeasance or dereliction of duty committed by a lawyer


(Tan Tek Beng v. David (1983)).

Gross misconduct is any inexcusable, shameful or flagrant unlawful conduct on the part of a
person concerned in the administration of justice which is prejudicial to the rights of the parties
or to the right determination of the cause. Such conduct is generally motivated by a
premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose (Yap v. Inopiquez, Jr. (2003)).

Immorality connotes conduct that shows indifference to the moral norms of society and the
opinion of good and respectable members of the community. The conduct must be grossly
immoral (i.e., so corrupt and false as to constitute a criminal act or so unprincipled as to be
reprehensible to a high degree) to warrant disciplinary action (Ui v. Bonifacio (2000)).

Moral turpitude involves an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private duties which a
man owes to his fellow men, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary
rule of right and duty between man and woman, or conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty
or good morals (Barrios v. Martinez (2004)).

MISCONDUCT IN PRIVATE CAPACITY


General rule: Lawyer may not be suspended or disbarred, and the court may not ordinarily
assume jurisdiction to discipline him, for misconduct in his non-professional or private capacity.

Exception: Where the misconduct outside of the lawyer's professional dealings is so gross a
character as to show him morally unfit for the office and unworthy of the privilege which his
licenses and the law confer on him, the court may be justified in suspending or removing him
from the office of attorney (Co v. Bernardino (1998)).

MISCONDUCT PRIOR OR INCIDENT TO ADMISSION


A lawyer may be disbarred for misrepresentation of or false pretense relative to the
requirements for admission to practice. Thus, the fact that a lawyer lacked any of the
qualifications for membership at the time he took his oath is a ground for his disbarment
(Agpalo (2004); see In Re: Diao (1963) and Lim v. Antonio (1971)).

C. PROCEEDINGS
PROCEDURE FOR DISBARMENT

PROCEDURE FOR DISBARMENT:


1. Institution either by:

a. The Supreme Court, motu proprio, or


b. The IBP, motu proprio, or
c. Upon verified complaint by any person

2. Six copies of the verified complaint shall be filed with the Secretary of the IBP or Secretary of any of its
chapter and shall be forwarded to the IBP Board of Governors.

3. Investigation by the National Grievance investigators.


4. Submission of investigative report to the IBP Board of Governors.

5. Board of Governors decides within 30 days.

6. Investigation by the Solicitor-General

7. SC renders final decision for disbarment/ suspension/ dismissal.

D. DISCIPLINE OF FILIPINO LAWYERS PRACTICING ABROAD


The disbarment or suspension of a member of the Philippine Bar by a competent court or other
disciplinary agency in a foreign jurisdiction where he has also been admitted as an attorney is a
ground for his disbarment or suspension if the basis of such action includes any of the acts
hereinabove enumerated.
The judgment, resolution or order of the foreign court or disciplinary agency shall be prima facie
evidence of the ground for disbarment or suspension. (Sec. 27, Rule 138, as amended by
Supreme Court Resolution dated Feb 13, 1992)

E. DISCIPLINE OF LAWYERS IN GOVERNMENT


General rule: A lawyer who holds a government office may not be disciplined as a member of
the Bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official.
Exception: If that misconduct as a government official is of such a character as to affect his
qualification as a lawyer or to show moral delinquency, then he may be disciplined as a member
of the bar on such ground
In People v. Castaneda (2013) the lawyers representing the offices under the executive branch
were reminded that they still remain as officers of the court from whom a high sense of
competence and fervor is expected. The Court reminded the lawyers in the government that the
canons embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility equally apply to lawyers in
government service in the discharge of their official tasks. They should exert every effort and
consider it their duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice.
F. QUANTUM OF PROOF
The proof required is clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence.
BURDEN OF PROOF AND PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
The burden of proof in disbarment and suspension proceedings always rests on the shoulders
of the complainant. The Court exercises its disciplinary power only if the complainant
establishes the complaint by clearly preponderant evidence that warrants the imposition of the
harsh penalty. As a rule, an attorney enjoys the legal presumption that he is innocent of the
charges made against him until the contrary is proved. An attorney is further presumed as an
officer of the Court to have performed his duties in accordance with his oath (Joven and
Reynaldo C. Rasing v. Cruz and Magsalin (2013)).

G. DISCIPLINARY MEASURES
(1) Warning, an act or fact of putting one on his guard against an impending danger, evil
consequences or penalties.
(2) Admonition, a gentle or friendly reproof, mild rebuke, warning or reminder, counseling, on a
fault, error or oversight;
(3) Reprimand, a public and formal censure or severe reproof.
(4) Suspension, a temporary withholding of a lawyers right to practice his profession as a
lawyer for:
(a) A definite period; or
(b) An indefinite period, which amounts to qualified disbarment, in which case, lawyer
determines for himself the length his suspension shall last by proving to court that he is once
again fit to resume practice of law.
(5) Censure, an official reprimand.
(6) Disbarment, the act of the Supreme Court in withdrawing from an attorney the privilege to
practice law and striking out the name of the lawyer from the roll of attorneys.
(7) Interim suspension, the temporary suspension of a lawyer pending imposition of final
discipline. It includes:
(a) Suspension upon conviction of a serious crime.
(b) Suspension when the lawyers continuing conduct is likely to cause immediate and serious
injury to a client or public.
(8) Probation, a sanction that allows a lawyer to practice law under specified conditions.

OTHER SANCTIONS AND REMEDIES


(1) Restitution;
(2) Assessment of costs;
(3) Limitation upon practice;
(4) Appointment of a receiver;
(5) Requirement that a lawyer take the bar examination or professional responsibility
examination;
(6) Requirement that a lawyer attend continuing education courses;

(7) Other requirements that the Supreme Court or disciplinary board deems consistent with the
purposes of sanctions.

MITIGATING CIRCUMSTANCES
(1) Absence of a prior disciplinary record;
(2) Absence of a dishonest or selfish motive;
(3) Personal or emotional problems;
(4) Timely good faith effort to make restitution or to rectify consequences of misconduct;
(5) Full and free disclosure to disciplinary board or cooperative attitude toward proceedings;
(6) Inexperience in the practice of law;
(7) Character or reputation;
(8) Physical or mental disability or impairment;
(9) Delay in disciplinary proceedings;
(10) Interim rehabilitation;
(11) Imposition of other penalties or sanctions;
(12) Remorse;
(13) Remoteness of prior offenses;
(14) Others:
(a) Good Faith;
(b) Want of intention to commit a wrong;
(c) Lack of material damage to the complaining witness;
(d) Desistance of complainant;
(e) Error in judgment;
(f) Honest and efficient service in various government positions;
(g) Ready admission of the infraction coupled with explanation and plea for forgiveness;
(h) Clean record of professional service in the past;
(i) Rendered professional services out of pure generosity;
(j) Punished in another capacity for a misconduct for which he now faces a disbarment
proceeding;
(k) Old Age & long membership (may also be an aggravation de-pending on the circumstance);

AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES:
(1) Prior disciplinary offenses;
(2) Dishonest or selfish motive;
(3) A pattern of misconduct;
(4) Multiple offenses;
(5) Bad faith obstruction of the disciplinary proceeding by intentionally failing to comply with
rules or orders of the disciplinary agency;
(6) Submission of false evidence, false statements, or other deceptive practices during the
disciplinary process;
(7) Refusal to acknowledge wrongful nature of conduct;
(8) Vulnerability of victim;
(9) Substantial experience in the practice of law;
(10) Indifference to making restitution. (See IBP Guidelines 9.22)
(11) Others:
(a) Abuse of authority or of attorney-client relationship;
(b) Sexual intercourse with a relative;
(c) Making the institution of marriage a mockery;
(d) Charge of gross immorality;
(e) Previous punishment as member of the bar;
(f) Defraud upon the government;
(g) Use of knowledge or information, acquired in the course of a previous professional
employment, against a former client.

H. EFFECT OF EXECUTIVE PARDON


(1) Conditional pardon: disbarment case will not be dismissed on such basis
(2) Absolute pardon granted before conviction: disbarment case will be dismissed
(3) Absolute pardon granted before conviction: No automatic reinstatement to the bar. It must be
shown by evidence aside from absolute pardon that he is now a person of good moral character
and fit and proper person to practice law.