CASE BRIEF 2019-0002

CASE: Jocelyn Sorensen vs. Atty. FloritoT. Pozon [A.C. No. 11334, January 07, 2019]

PONENTE: Carpio, J.:

SUBJECT: CANON 18 Code of Professional Responsibility

FACTS:

Jocelyn Sorensen alleges that she first engaged the legal services of Atty. Florito T. Pozon in 1995 for the reconstitution of the title for the sum of Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP10,000.00).

In 1996, complainant again engaged Atty. Pozon’s services to file a petition for the issuance of a new owner’s copy of the title for the sum of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (PhP 15,000.00).

In 2000, complainant engaged Atty. Pozon’s services for a third time to secure the title of her lot for the sum of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (PhP 15,000.00).

In 2003, complainant engaged Atty. Pozon as her counsel for the last time to secure the title of another lot for the sum of Twenty-Four Thousand Pesos (PhP 24,000.00).

In 2011, complainant filed a verified Complaint against Atty. Pozon, with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Commission for alleged neglect to handle complainant’s cases or to at least inform complainant of the progress of the cases, in violation of Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Complaint alleged that despite complainant’s payment amounting to Seventy-Two Thousand Pesos (PhP 72,000.00), the above­ mentioned cases have yet to be concluded.

In his Answer, Atty. Pozon admitted that he was the legal counsel for complainant. For the 1995 case, he alleged that the acceptance fee of Ten Thousand Pesos (PhP 10,000.00) was made in several installments. Atty. Pozon alleged that the 1996 case turned out to be a difficult case because an aggrieved party appeared and filed a criminal action against complainant including Atty. Pozon. The case was settled amicably and complainant decided to forego the case. He alleged that he only received a partial payment of Three Thousand Pesos (PhP 3,000.00) out of the agreed upon acceptance fee of Fifteen Thousand Pesos (PhP 15,000.00).

For the 2000 case, Atty. Pozon alleged that the delay was due to complainant’s refusal to shoulder Atty. Pozon ‘s travel costs to the Land Registration Office in Quezon City.

Lastly, for the 2003 case, Atty. Pozon alleged that the delay was again due to complainant’s failure to present any witness to show that she or her predecessors-in-interest possessed the lot since 1940 or prior thereto.

ISSUE:

Whether or not Atty. Fiorito T. Pozon is guilty of neglecting the legal matters entrusted to him by his client.

RULING:
When a lawyer accepts a case, his acceptance is an implied representation that he possesses the requisite academic learning, skill, and ability to handle the case. Thus, a lawyer’s duty to safeguard the interests of his client commences from his retainer, the time the lawyer accepts money from a client, until his effective release from the case, the time the legal matter in litigation is finally disposed of.

In this case, it is undisputed that Atty. Pozon neglected the legal matters entrusted to him by complainant. He even failed to at least inform complainant of the progress of the cases. His inaction is clearly in violation of Rules 18.03 and 18.04, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. The Rules state:

“CANON 18 – A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.

Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

Rule 18.04 -A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within a reasonable time to the client’s request for information.

With regard to the appropriate penalty on an errant lawyer, sound judicial discretion based on the surrounding facts is required. This Court has consistently meted out the penalty of suspension from the practice of law to lawyers who neglect their client’s affairs and, at the same time, fail to return the latter’s money and/or property despite demand.”

The case of Meneses v. Atty. Macalino further emphasized that when a lawyer receives money from a client for a particular purpose, the lawyer is bound to render an accounting to the client showing that the money was spent for the intended purpose.

Conversely, if the lawyer does not use the money for the intended purpose, he must immediately return the money to the client. 

In the present case, Atty. Pozon failed to safeguard complainant’s interests after the retainer commenced. His mere acceptance of the money from the client without fulfilling his duties as a lawyer is indicative of lack of integrity and propriety. His actions constitute a clear violation of the trust reposed in him by complainant.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      A lawyer’s duty to safeguard the interests of his client commences from his retainer, the time the lawyer accepts money from a client, until his effective release from the case, the time the legal matter in litigation is finally disposed of.

B)       When a lawyer receives money from a client for a particular purpose, the lawyer is bound to render an accounting to the client showing that the money was spent for the intended purpose.

‘Stand by things decided’ ~ Stare Decisis


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