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LEGAL PROFESSION

TOPIC: AUHTORITY TO APPEAR, AUTHORITY TO BIND CLIENTS, COMPENSATION, ATTYS LIEN


LEGARDA VS. CA It should be remembered that the moment a lawyer takes a client's cause; he covenants that he will exert all effort for its prosecution until its final conclusion. A lawyer who fails to exercise due diligence or abandons his client's cause makes him unworthy of the trust reposed on him by the latter. Ponente: PER CURIAM (By the Court as a Whole), 1992 FACTS: Legarda was the defendant in a case where private respondent, New Cathay House compels her to sign the lease agreement in order to operate a restaurant therein. After hearing, a writ of preliminary injunction was issued by the Court. After which, Atty. Coronel entered his appearance as counsel for the petitioner. Petitioner failed to file her answer within the extended period granted by the court. Upon motion by Private Respondent, she was declared in default, thereby paving the way for the presentation of evidence ex parte (without notice to or argument from the adverse party). Lower Court rendered a decision by default in which damages were charged against petitioner. No appeal was made by the respondent thus, the decision became final, and upon motion of respondent, a writ of execution was ordered. Petitioners property was levied and sold at public auction. The one-year redemption period has expired, in which, a final deed of sale was issued by the Sheriff. Petitioner with new counsel filed a petition for the annulment of the decision before the Court of Appeals. However, it was through Atty. Coronel that they filed a consolidated comment in which they alleged that she was deceived by a representative of New Cathay House; which made her to believe that the respondent would withdraw the file complaint against her, upon, their agreement on the conditions of lease. This prompt her to advice her lawyer not to file an answer to the complaint anymore. Court of Appeals dismissed the Appeal pronouncing that, based on the facts; it is a case of simple neglect from Petitioners Counsel who simply failed to answer on the defendants behalf. With no further motion from the petitioner and her counsel, the Court of Appeals decision became final. Petitioner was then ordered to vacate her property.

Legarda with a new counsel sought relief (petition for Certiorari) in the Supreme Court alleging, among others, that she was deprived of proper representation in court and divested her of property through the gross negligence of her previous counsel, Atty. Coronel. Supreme Court found merit in petitioners motion and ordered the annulment of all the decisions rendered by the lower court. It also ordered Atty. Coronel to show cause why he should not be held administratively liable for his acts and omissions which caused grave injustice to the petitioner. Even after he was granted a 30 day extension, he failed to respond to the Courts order, and asked for another extension on the grounds that he was hospitalized. DECISION: The second motion for extension of Atty. Coronel was denied, and he was suspended for 6 months for gross negligence in the defense of petitioner Legarda. Atty. Coronel's failure to exercise due diligence in protecting and attending to the interest of his client caused the latter material prejudice. The Court held that the facts of the case clearly showed that Atty. Coronel violated Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which mandates that "A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence." He failed to observe particularly Rule 18.03 of the same Code which requires that "A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable."