Legal Ethics

BARNACHEA vs. ATTY. EDWIN T. QUIOCHO A.M. No. 5925. March 11, 2003 Code of Professional Responsibility

FACTS:

Respondent had not been in the private practice of the law for quite some time.  However, in September 2001, he decided to revive his legal practice with some associates.  Complainant engaged the legal services of respondent for the latter to cause the transfer under her name of the title over a property covered by Transfer Certificate of Title No. 334411 previously owned by her sister, Lutgarda Amor D. Barnachea. The latter sold said property to complainant under an unnotarized deed of absolute sale.

Complainant drew and issued BPI Family Bank Check No. 0052304 in the amount of P11,280.00 and BPI Family Bank Check No. 0052305 in the amount of P30,000.00,  for the expenses for said transfer and in payment for respondent’s legal services.

Respondent encashed the checks. However, despite the lapse of almost two months, respondent failed to secure title over the property in favor of complainant.  The latter demanded that respondent refund to her the amount of P41,280.00 and return the documents which she earlier entrusted to him.  However, respondent failed to comply with said demands.  On November 1, 2001, complainant received a letter from respondent informing her that he had failed to cause the transfer of the property under her name and that he was returning the documents and title she had entrusted to him and refunding to her the amount of P41,280.00 through his personal check No. DIL 0317787.  Said check was drawn against his account with the Bank of Commerce in the amount of P41,280.00 and was postdated December 1, 2001.  Respondent told complainant that he needed more time to fund the check.  However, respondent failed to fund the check despite the demands of complainant.

On the other hand, respondent alleged that his failure to transfer the title of the property under the name of the complainant was caused by his difficulty in making good the claimed amount, compounded by his affliction with diabetes and the consequent loss of sight of his right eye.

 

ISSUE:

Is respondent guilty of the said accusations?

 

RULING:

The Court is led to believe that respondent’s failure to cause the transfer of the title of the property under the name of complainant was due to a financial problem that beset him shortly after he received the checks from complainant.  It can easily be inferred from respondent’s letter that he used complainant’s money to alleviate if not solve his financial woes.  What compounded respondent’s unethical conduct was his drawing of a personal check and delivering the same to complainant without sufficient funds in his bank account to cover the check.  Even as he promised to fund his account with the drawee bank, respondent failed to do so when the check became due.

Respondent Atty. Edwin T. Quiocho is found guilty of violation of Canons 15 and 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.  He is SUSPENDED from the practice of law for One (1) Year with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.  He is DIRECTED to restitute to the complainant the full amount of P41,280.00 within ten (10) days from notice hereof. Respondent is further DIRECTED to submit to the Court proof of payment of said amount within ten (10) days from said payment.  If Respondent fails to restitute the said amount within the aforesaid period, he shall be meted an additional suspension of three (3) months for every month or fraction thereof of delay until he shall have paid the said amount in full.  In case a subsidiary penalty of suspension for his failure to restitute the said amount shall be necessary, respondent shall serve successively the penalty of his one year suspension and the subsidiary penalty.  This is without prejudice to the right of the complainant to institute the appropriate action for the collection of said amount.

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