Saturday, December 7, 2013

Administrative cases against lawyers; powers of the Supreme Court.

A.C. No. 7329. November 27, 2013
Sps. David Williams and Marisa Williams Vs. Atty. Rudy T. Enriquez

"In administrative cases, the only issue within the ambit of the Court’s disciplinary authority is whether a lawyer is fit to remain a member of the
Bar. Other issues are proper subjects of judicial action. In Anacta v.
Resurreccion,16 the Court held that:

x x x Thus, it is imperative to first determine whether the matter falls within the disciplinary authority of the Court or whether the matter is a proper subject of judicial action against lawyers. If the matter involves violations of the lawyer’s oath and code of conduct, then it falls within the Court’s disciplinary authority. However, if the matter arose from acts which carry civil or criminal liability, and which do not directly require an inquiry into the moral fitness of the lawyer, then the matter would be a proper subject of a judicial action which is understandably outside the purview of the Court’s disciplinary authority.17

On its face, the 12 September 2006 complaint filed by the Spouses Williams against Atty. Enriquez does not merit an administrative case. In order for the Court to determine whether Atty. Enriquez is guilty of dishonesty, the issue of ownership must first be settled. The Spouses Williams alleged that Verar was the owner of the property and that she sold a portion of it to them. On the other hand, Atty. Enriquez alleged that Desiderio, Francisco, Ramon, Umbac and Briones were the real owners of the property and that Verar was only a trustee. This was precisely the issue in Civil Case No. 390. Unfortunately, the MCTC was not able to make a definite ruling because the Spouses Williams failed to file their answer within the prescribed period.

The issue of ownership of real property must be settled in a judicial, not administrative, case. In Virgo v. Amorin,18 the Court dismissed without
prejudice a complaint against a lawyer because it could not determine his
fitness to remain a member of the Bar without delving into issues which are
proper subjects of judicial action. The Court held that:

While it is true that disbarment proceedings look into the worthiness of a respondent to remain as a member of the bar, and need not delve into the merits of a related case, the Court, in this instance, however, cannot ascertain whether Atty. Amorin indeed committed acts in violation of his oath as a lawyer concerning the sale and conveyance of the Virgo Mansion without going through the factual matters that are subject of the aforementioned civil cases, particularly Civil Case No. 01-45798.19

The allegations that Atty. Enriquez wrote "OCT" instead of "TCT" but with the same number T-19723, and "Veran" instead of "Verar," are too trivial to give rise to administrative sanction. Besides, these mistakes could have been made inadvertently. Atty. Enriquez's failure to attach the pages of TCT No. T-19723 bearing the annotation of the sale to the Spouses Williams did not prejudice the Spouses Williams because in forcible entry the issue is the fact of prior possession, not ownership."