Posts Tagged ‘VDA. DE ROBOSA V. ATTY. MENDOZA’

VDA. DE ROBOSA V. ATTY. MENDOZA, ET AL.

AC No. 6056, Sept. 9, 2015

By: Karen P. Lustica

 

FACTS:

 

On February 20, 1993, upon the behest of Atty. Mendoza, Felicisima signed a Contract for Service3prepared by Atty. Mendoza. The said contract stipulated that in the event of a favorable CENRO or LMB resolution, Felicisima shall convey to Atty. Mendoza one-fifth (1/5) of the lands subject of the application or one-fifth (1/5) of the proceeds should the same property be sold.

The CENRO and the LMB proceedings resulted in the dismissal of Felicisima and her siblings’ application for Lot No. 2489 and the partial grant of their application for Lot No. 3771. Subsequently, Felicisima and her siblings sold the land to Greenfield Corporation (Greenfield) and received the amount of P2,000,000.00 as down payment.

On October 15, 1998, Atty. Mendoza, joined by his wife Filomena S. Mendoza, filed in the RTC claiming that except for the amount of P40,000.00, Felicisima and her siblings refused to pay his attorney’s fees equivalent to 1/5 of the proceeds of the sale of the land as stipulated in the Contract for Service.

In their Answer with Counterclaim, Felicisima and her siblings denied the “existence and authenticity of the x x x Contract of Service.”

The RTC rendered judgment in favor of Atty. Mendoza and against Felicisima and her siblings.

Since no opposition was filed by Felicisima and her siblings, the RTC granted the said motion and issued a writ of execution, which resulted in the levy and eventual transfer of Felicisima’s properties in favor of Atty. Mendoza as the highest bidder in the execution sale.

Felicisima filed a complaint-affidavit for disbarment before this Court against Atty. Mendoza for allegedly deceiving her into signing the Contract for Service by taking advantage of her illiteracy, and against Atty. Navarro for dereliction of duty in handling her case before the CA causing her properties to be levied and sold at public auction.
Felicisima alleges that Atty. Mendoza made her sign a document at her house without the presence of her siblings. Said document (Contract for Service) was written in English which she does not understand. She claims that Atty. Mendoza told her the document will shield her from her siblings’ possible future claims on the property because she alone is entitled to the property as her siblings did not help her in processing the application for original registration. She was not given a copy of the said document and she discovered only during the trial that Atty. Mendoza anchors his claim over Vs of proceeds from the sale of the land awarded by the CENRO and LMB on the same document she had signed.

As to Atty. Navarro, Felicisima claims that her case before the CA was neglected despite repeated follow-ups on her part. She also points out that Atty. Navarro abandoned her case before the RTC when the latter failed to file an opposition to Atty. Mendoza’s motion for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the loss of her properties.

In his Comment, Atty. Mendoza avers that he has been a lawyer since 1954 and retired sometime in 1983 due to partial disability.

Atty. Navarro pleads for mercy and compassion if he had somehow committed some lapses considering that this is the first time he was charged administratively in his almost 39 years of law practice and that he is too willing to take complainant’s cause if not for such apparent miscommunication between a lawyer and his client.

IBP – Atty. Mendoza guilty of taking advantage of Felicisima’s ignorance just to have the Contract for Service signed. Atty. Mendoza violated Canon 17 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR) that a lawyer owes fidelity to the cause of his client and shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed on him, as well as Rule 20.04, Canon 20 which exhorts lawyers to avoid controversies with clients concerning matters of compensation and to resort to judicial action only to prevent imposition, injustice or fraud.

As to Atty. Navarro, the Investigating Commissioner held that his participation in politics affected his law practice and caused him to forget about Felicisima’s caseThe Investigating Commissioner further said that Atty. Navarro’s acts showed lack of diligence in violation of Canon 18 of the CPR and his Lawyer’s Oath.

Suspension for two (2) years from the practice of law.

Modified – suspension from two (2) years to six (6) months.

 

ISSUE:

WON disbarment or suspension for the two lawyers

 

HELD:

  1. Dismissal of case against Attorney Mendoza
  2. Suspension for Attorney Navarro

 

RATIO:

  1. The Court has consistently held that in suspension or disbarment proceedings against lawyers, the lawyer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and the burden of proof rests upon the complainant to prove the allegations in his complaint. The evidence required in suspension or disbarment proceedings is preponderance of evidence. In case the evidence of the parties are equally balanced, the equipoise doctrine mandates a decision in favor of the respondent. For the Court to exercise its disciplinary powers, the case against the respondent must be established by clear, convincing and satisfactory proof.

    Contract for Service with Atty. Mendoza
    a contract for contingent fees

    On the basis of the evidence, the Court finds no ground to support Felicisima’s claim that she did not enter into any written agreement with the plaintiff, Juan Mendoza, for the latter to render legal services and the corresponding compensation therefor as set forth in the Contract of Service. However, the Court finds that the amounts received by the plaintiff Juan Mendoza from defendant Felicisima Mendoza during the course of his legal services for the twenty hearings in the amount of P1,300.00 per hearing or a total of P26,000.00 should also be deducted from his claim of P1,384,000.00 leaving an unpaid balance of PI,258,000.00 due plaintiff Juan Mendoza for legal services rendered the defendants.hanrobleslaw

Given the above finding of the RTC that Felicisima in fact entered into a contract for legal services with Atty. Mendoza, thus debunking her defense in her Answer denying the existence and authenticity of the said document, it appears that Felicisima raised the issue of voluntariness of her signing the Contract for Service only during the hearing when she supposedly testified that, having reached only Grade IV and trusting completely her lawyer cousin, Atty. Mendoza who told her that the document will protect her from the claims of her siblings, she actually signed the Contract for Service The RTC, however, found the evidence adduced by Felicisima as insufficient to defeat Atty. Mendoza’s claim for attorney’s fees. Said judgment had attained finality and even pending appeal was already executed on motion by Atty. Mendoza.

Apart from the allegations in her affidavit-complaint, Felicisima failed to establish by clear and satisfactory proof of the deception allegedly committed by Atty. Mendoza when she agreed in writing for the latter’s contingent fees. Fraud and irregularity in the execution of their contingency fee contract cannot be deduced from the fact alone that Atty. Mendoza filed suit to enforce their contract.

  1. Atty. Navarro ‘s Gross Negligence

    With respect to Atty. Navarro, the facts on record clearly established his failure to live up to the standards of diligence and competence of the legal profession.

    In this case, Atty. Navarro agreed to represent Felicisima and her siblings in Civil Case No. T-1080 and as their counsel he filed the Answer with Counterclaim. He likewise attended the hearings of the case until the RTC rendered an adverse judgment. However, after filing the Notice of Appeal, nothing was heard of again from him. He did not file any opposition when Atty. Mendoza moved for execution pending appeal, which resulted in the sale of Felicisima’s properties at public auction and eventual eviction of Felicisima and her children from the said premises. Worse, he failed to file an appellant’s brief despite receipt of the order from the CA directing him to do so within the period specified therein, and to file a motion for reconsideration when the appeal was dismissed due to non-filing of such brief. His motion for extension of time to submit an appellant’s brief was filed 93days late and was thus denied by the CA. Barely a week after, he filed a notice of withdrawal of appearance bearing the conformity of his clients which was granted. It is evident from the foregoing that Atty. Navarro failed to inform Felicisima of the status of the case so that the latter was surprised upon being served the eviction order of the court and eventual dismissal by the CA of their appeal.

    Canon 18 of the CPR mandates that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Rule 18.03 further provides that a lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

A lawyer who performs his duty with diligence and candor not only protects the interest of his client; he also serves the ends of justice, does honor to the bar and helps maintain the respect of the community to the legal profession.aw

We have held that the failure of counsel to submit the appeal brief for his client within the reglementary period constitutes inexcusable negligence39 an offense that entails disciplinary action.40The filing of a brief within the period set by law is a duty not only to the client, but also to the court.41The failure to file an appellate court brief without any justifiable reason thus deserves sanction.42

 

DISPOSITION: Dismissal of case against Attorney Mendoza

Suspension for 6 months against Attorney Navarro

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