Fiduciary duty of lawyers

In the case of TRINIDAD H. CAMARA vs. ATTY. OSCAR AMANDY REYES, A.C. No. 6121, July 31, 2009, the respondent lawyer was SUSPENDED for a period of SIX (6) MONTHS from the practice of law.


Sometime in 2003, complainant hired the services of respondent to handle her case. As partial acceptance fee, respondent received from complainant P50,000.00 evidenced by a receipt placed on his calling card. Respondent, however, took no steps to protect complainant’s interest. As no service was rendered by respondent, complainant asked that he return the amount given him so that she could use it in repairing her house. Respondent offered that he would take charge of repairing the house. Yet, he again failed to fulfill his promise, which prompted the complainant to reiterate her demand for the return of the money. As respondent failed to give back the amount demanded, complainant initiated the instant case.


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The alleged compromise between complainant and respondent is not enough to exonerate the latter from the present disciplinary case. A case of suspension or disbarment may proceed regardless of the interest or lack of interest of the complainant. What matters is whether, on the basis of the facts borne out by the record, the charge of negligence has been duly proved.

Disciplinary proceedings involve no private interest and afford no redress for private grievance. They are undertaken and prosecuted solely for the public welfare, and for the purpose of preserving courts of justice from the official ministration of persons unfit to practice in them. The attorney is called to answer to the court for his conduct as an officer of the court. The complainant is in no sense a party, and has generally no interest in the outcome of the case. This is also the reason why this Court may investigate charges against lawyers regardless of complainant’s standing.

When respondent accepted the amount of P50,000.00 from complainant, it was understood that he agreed to take up the latter’s case, and that an attorney-client relationship between them was established. From then on, it was expected that he would serve his client, herein complainant, with competence, and attend to her cause with fidelity, care and devotion.

The act of receiving money as acceptance fee for legal services in handling complainant’s case and subsequently failing to render such services is a clear violation of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, which provides that a lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence. Specifically, Rule 18.03 states:

A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection therewith shall render him liable.

A member of the legal profession owes his client entire devotion to the latter’s genuine interest, and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his rights. An attorney is expected to exert his best efforts and ability to preserve his client’s cause, for the unwavering loyalty displayed to his client, likewise, serves the ends of justice. Verily, the entrusted privilege to practice law carries with it the corresponding duties, not only to the client, but also to the court, to the bar and to the public.

The fiduciary duty of a lawyer and advocate is what places the law profession in a unique position of trust and confidence, and distinguishes it from any other calling. Once this trust and confidence is betrayed, the faith of the people, not only in the individual lawyer but also in the legal profession as a whole, is eroded. To this end, all members of the bar are strictly required at all times to maintain the highest degree of public confidence in the fidelity, honesty and integrity of their profession.

The factual antecedents in Reyes v. Vitan and Sencio v. Atty. Calvadores bear a striking similarity to the present case. In Reyes, complainant engaged the services of respondent lawyer for the purpose of filing the appropriate complaint or charges against the former’s sister-in-law and the latter’s niece. After receiving the amount of P17,000.00, respondent did not take any action on complainant’s case. In Sencio, complainant therein, likewise, engaged the services of Atty. Calvadores to prosecute the civil aspect of the case in relation to the death of her son in a vehicular accident. The total amount of P12,000.00 was duly acknowledged and received by respondent as attorney’s fees. Despite repeated assurances by respondent, complainant discovered that the former had not filed any case on her behalf.

In both cases, we suspended the respondent lawyers for a period of six (6) months. Thus, we impose the same penalty on respondent herein, as recommended by the IBP Board of Governors.

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