Liability for lawyer's neglect; effect of death

Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides:
A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
In the case of Caoile v. Atty. Macaraeg (A.C. No. 720, June 17, 2015), a considerable length of time had elapsed from the time Atty. Macaraeg' filed the notice of appeal on August 30, 1962 up to the time he filed the third motion for extension of time to file brief on October 5, 1963. Despite the passage of such time, however, Atty. Macaraeg still failed to file the brief, which resulted in the dismissal of his clients' appeal. Suffice it to state that a motion for extension to file an appellant's brief carries with it the presumption that the applicant-lawyer will file the pleading within the requested extended period. Failure to do so without any reasonable excuse violates the Code of Professional Responsibility. (Bergonia v. Atty. Merrera, AA6 Phil. 1, 3 [2003])

While Atty. Macaraeg attributed the non-filing of the brief to his clients' failure to give the amount necessary for filing the same, he should have, as aptly stated by Commissioner Cachapero, shown a more mindful and caring attitude towards the cause of his clients by advancing the payment. Besides, the facts of this case show that his clients were making partial payments in their efforts to comply with their obligation to him and were not deliberately refusing to pay him. In fact, as claimed by Atty. Macaraeg himself, Francisco even insisted that they enter into a pacto de retro sale in order for them to fully pay him for the services he rendered in connection with their civil case in the CFI. In fact, if Atty. Macaraeg truly believed that the necessary funds from his clients were not forthcoming, he could have excused himself from the case. The Code of Professional Responsibility allows a counsel to withdraw his services for a good cause, including the client's failure to comply with the retainer agreement. Indeed, Atty. Macaraeg violated Rule 12.03. 

Nevertheless, while the actuation of Atty. Macaraeg warrants the imposition of a penalty, supervening circumstances call for the dismissal of this administrative case.

The Supreme Court Law List shows that Atty. Macaraeg was admitted to the Bar on November 6, 1933. Records reveal that he was already 60 years old when the hearings in this disbarment case were held in 1967. Hence, he would have been 108 years old by this time. It is also noteworthy that the subpoena issued by the Solicitor General in 1972 contains a handwritten note that Atty. Macaraeg had already died. Thereafter, nothing more was heard from either party despite notice. Under these circumstances, it is safe to assume that the complainant had already lost interest in pursuing this disbarment case against Atty. Macaraeg and that there is truth in the handwritten notation in the return of the subpoena that Atty. Macaraeg had already passed away. In Apiag v. Cantero (335 Phil. 511, 526 [1997]), the [Supreme] Court dismissed the administrative case against therein respondent and no longer imposed any sanction against him in view of his death during the pendency of said case.

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