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Nakpil vs Valdes [A.C. No. 2040. March 4, 1998]

16 Oct

Ponente: PUNO, J.

FACTS:

Jose Nakpil, husband of the complainant, became interested in purchasing a summer residence in Moran Street, Baguio City. For lack of funds, he requested respondent to purchase the Moran property for him. They agreed that respondent would keep the property in thrust for the Nakpils until the latter could buy it back. Pursuant to their agreement, respondent obtained two (2) loans from a bank which he used to purchase and renovate the property. Title was then issued in respondent’s name.

The ownership of the Moran property became an issue in the intestate proceedings when Jose Nakpil died. Respondent acted as the legal counsel and accountant of his widow. Respondent excluded the Moran property from the inventory of Jose’s estate and transferred his title to the Moran property to his company, the Caval Realty Corporation.

ISSUE:

Whether or not there was conflict of interest between the respondent Atty. Valdes and the complainant.

HELD:

YES. Respondent was suspended from practice of law for one (1) year.

RATIO:

[T]here is no question that the interests of the estate and that of its creditors are adverse to each other. Respondent’s accounting firm prepared the list of assets and liabilities of the estate and, at the same time, computed the claims of two creditors of the estate. There is clearly a conflict between the interest of the estate which stands as the debtor, and that of the two claimants who are creditors of the estate.

[R]espondent undoubtedly placed his law firm in a position where his loyalty to his client could be doubted. In the estate proceedings, the duty of respondent’s law firm was to contest the claims of these two creditors but which claims were prepared by respondent’s accounting firm. Even if the claims were valid and did not prejudice the estate, the set-up is still undesirable. The test to determine whether there is a conflict of interest in the representation is probability, not certainty of conflict. It was respondent’s duty to inhibit either of his firms from said proceedings to avoid the probability of conflict of interest.

Public confidence in law and lawyers may be eroded by the irresponsible and improper conduct of a member of the bar. Thus, a lawyer should determine his conduct by acting in a manner that would promote public confidence in the integrity of the legal profession. Members of the bar are expected to always live up to the standards embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility as the relationship between an attorney and his client is highly fiduciary in nature and demands utmost fidelity and good faith. In the case at bar, respondent exhibited less than full fidelity to his duty to observe candor, fairness and loyalty in his dealings and transactions with his clients.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2012 in Case Digests, Legal Ethics

 

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