CASE BRIEF 2006-206

CASE: Eduardo P. Meneses vs. Atty. Rodolfo P. Macalino (A.C. No. 6651             February 27, 2006)

PONENTE: Carpio, J.:

SUBJECT: CANON 16 Code of Professional Responsibility

FACTS:

Complainant filed a verified complaint for disbarment against respondent with the Commission on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines. He alleged that respondent offered his legal services to complainant to help secure the release of complainant’s car from the Bureau of Customs. Respondent proposed to handle the case for a “package deal” of ₱60,000. Complainant agreed and initially gave respondent ₱10,000 for processing of the papers. In June 1993, respondent asked for ₱30,000 to expedite the release of the car. In both instances, respondent did not issue a receipt but promised to furnish complainant with a receipt from the Bureau of Customs. Since then, respondent failed to give complainant an update on the matter.

Complainant repeatedly went to respondent’s house to inquire on the status of the release of the car. Complainant was always told that respondent was not around and to just return another day. This went on for more than a year.

ISSUE:

What is the duty and liability of the respondent as a lawyer?

RULING:

Respondent is liable for violation of Canon 16, Rule 16.01, Rule 16.03, and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

It is the lawyer’s duty to keep the client regularly and fully updated on the developments of the client’s case. The Code provides that “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.”

Respondent’s failure to communicate with complainant was an unjustified denial of complainant’s right to be fully informed of the status of the case.

The Code mandates that every “lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession.”  The Code further states that “a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client.” Furthermore, “a lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due and upon demand.”

When a lawyer receives money from the 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. Consequently, if the lawyer does not use the money for the intended purpose, the lawyer must immediately return the money to the client.

Respondent’s failure to return the money to complainant upon demand is conduct indicative of lack of integrity and propriety and a violation of the trust reposed on him (Aldovino v. Pujalte, Jr., A.C. No. 5082, 17 February 2004). Respondent’s unjustified withholding of money belonging to the complainant warrants the imposition of disciplinary action.

Related Case: CASE BRIEF 2013-05: Jocelyn Sorensen vs. Atty. FloritoT. Pozon

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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      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.

B)       Every lawyer shall hold in trust all moneys and properties of his client that may come into his possession.  

C)      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.

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