ATTY. ELMER C. SOLIDON, complainant,
ATTY. RAMIL E. MACALALAD, respondent.
[A.C.8158. February 24, 2010]
Complainant, through a mutual acquaintance asked respondent to handle the judicial titling of a parcel of land owned by complainant’s relatives. Respondent accepted the task to be completed within a period of eight (8) months and received Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as initial payment; the remaining balance of Thirty Thousand Pesos (P30,000.00) was to be paid when complainant received the certificate of title to the property. Respondent has not filed any petition for registration over the property sought to be titled up to the filing of this case. In the Complaint, Position Papers and documentary evidence submitted, complainant claimed that he tried to contact respondent to follow-up on the status of the case six (6) months after he paid the initial legal fees. He did this through phone calls and text messages to their known acquaintances and relatives, and, finally, through a letter sent by courier to the respondent. However, he did not receive any return communication. Complainant sought the disbarment of respondent for violations of Rule 16.01, Rule 18.03, and Rule 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility involving negligence in handling a case. Complainant argued that he had no intention of reneging from his obligation, as he already had prepared the draft petition, and he failed to file it because it lacked the needed documentary requirements that his clients should have furnished him. The Investigating Commissioner of IBP made a finding negligence on the part of the respondent. This was affirmed by the IBP Commission on Bar Discipline.
(1) Whether or not the respondent’s excuse is exculpatory.
(1) No. Respondent’s excuse is not exculpatory. He was imposed the (modified) penalty of suspension for six (6) months from the practice of law and was ordered to return to the complainant the amount of Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) with interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum from the date of promulgation of the Decision until the full amount is returned.
In administrative cases against lawyers, the quantum of proof required is preponderance of evidence which the complainant has the burden to discharge. We fully considered the evidence presented and we are fully satisfied that the complainant’s evidence, as outlined above, fully satisfies the required quantum of proof in proving respondent’s negligence. Rule 18.03, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides for the rule on negligence and states:
Rule 18.03 – A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.
The Court has consistently held, in construing this Rule, that the mere failure of the lawyer to perform the obligations due to the client is considered per se a violation. (underscoring provided)
In addition to the above finding of negligence, [Court] also [found] respondent guilty of violating Rule 16.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires a lawyer to account for all the money received from the client. In this case, respondent did not immediately account for and promptly return the money he received from complainant even after he failed to render any legal service within the contracted time of the engagement.