Guidelines for lifting of lawyer's suspension

Time and again, the Supreme Court has reminded the bench and bar "that the practice of law is not a right but a mere privilege subject to the inherent regulatory power of the Court." It is a "privilege burdened with conditions." As such, lawyers must comply with its rigid standards, which include mental fitness, maintenance of highest level of morality, and full compliance with the rules of the legal profession.

With regard to suspension to practice law, in Maniago v. Atty. De Dios (631 Phil. 139, 2010), the High Court laid down the guidelines for the lifting of an order of suspension, to wit:
  1. After a finding that respondent lawyer must be suspended from the practice of law, the Court shall render a decision imposing the penalty;
  2. Unless the Court explicitly states that the decision is immediately executory upon receipt thereof, respondent has 15 days within which to file a motion for reconsideration thereof. The denial of said motion shall render the decision final and executory;
  3. Upon the expiration of the period of suspension, respondent shall file a Sworn Statement with the Court, through the Office of the Bar Confidant, stating therein that he or she has desisted from the practice of law and has not appeared in any court during the period of his or her suspension;
  4. Copies of the Sworn Statement shall be furnished to the Local Chapter of the IBP and to the Executive Judge of the courts where respondent has pending cases handled by him or her, and/or where he or she has appeared as counsel;
  5. The Sworn Statement shall be considered as proof of respondent's compliance with the order of suspension; and
  6. Any finding or report contrary to the statements made by the lawyer under oath shall be a ground for the imposition of a more severe punishment, or disbarment, as may be warranted.
Pursuant to these guidelines, in the case of Tan v. Gumba (A.C. No. 9000. January 10, 2018), the Supreme Court issued a Resolution dated October 5, 2011 suspending respondent from the practice of law for six months effective immediately. Respondent filed her motion for reconsideration. And, on November 12, 2012, she received the notice of the denial of such motion per Registry Return Receipt No. 53365.While, indeed, service of a judgment or resolution must be done only personally or by registered mail, and that mere showing of a downloaded copy of the October 5, 2011 Resolution to respondent is not a valid service, the fact however, that respondent was duly informed of her suspension remains unrebutted. Again, as stated above, she filed a motion for reconsideration on the October 5, 2011 Resolution, and the Supreme Court duly notified her of the denial of said motion. It thus follows that respondent's six months suspension commenced from the notice of the denial of her motion for reconsideration on November 12, 2012 until May 12, 2013.

In Ibana-Andrade v. Atty. Paita-Moya (763 Phil. 687, 2015), despite having received the Resolution anent her suspension, Atty. Paita-Moya continued to practice law. She filed pleadings and she appeared as counsel in courts. For which reason, the Court suspended her from the practice of law for six months in addition to her initial one month suspension, or a total of seven months.

Too, in Feliciano v. Atty. Bautista-Lozada (755 Phil. 349, 2015), respondent therein, Atty. Lozada, appeared and signed as counsel, for and in behalf of her husband, during the period of her suspension from the practice of law. For having done so, the Court ruled that she engaged in unauthorized practice of law. The Court did not give weight to Atty. Lozada's defense of good faith as she was very well aware that when she represented her husband, she was still serving her suspension order. The Court also noted that Atty. Lozada did not seek any clearance or clarification from the Court if she can represent her husband in court. In this regard, the Court suspended Atty. Lozada for six months for her wilful disobedience to a lawful order of the Court.

ADDITIONAL READINGS:

[1] Maniago v. Atty. De Dios, 631 Phil. 139 (2010) at 145.
[2] Lingan v. Atty. Calubaquib, 737 Phil. 191, 209 (2014).
[3] RULES Of COURT, Rule 13, Section 9.

Popular Posts