Legal Ethics

Oscar Espiritu vs Atty. Jaime Ulep

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A.C. No. 5808 – 458 SCRA 1 – Legal Ethics – Canon 16 – Misappropriation of Client’s Money¬†

In 1997, a compromise agreement was reached between Oscar Espiritu and Ricardo Maon whereby Espiritu agreed to deliver P50k to Maon. Espiritu handed the P50k to Atty. Jaime Ulep, his lawyer, so that the latter may deliver it to Maon. Ulep failed to deliver the money to Maon and thereafter he avoided talking to Espiritu. Espiritu then sought the assistance of the local IBP chapter. Thereafter, Ulep was invited but he failed to appear for five consecutive scheduled hearings. The IBP chapter then heard the case ex parte and subsequently recommended Ulep’s suspension.

ISSUE: Whether or not the recommendation is correct.

HELD: Yes. Ulep violated Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. A lawyer should hold in trust all money and properties of his client that may come into his possession. In the case at bar, Ulep failed to explain what he did with the money. The relation between attorney and client is highly fiduciary in nature. Being such, it requires utmost good faith, loyalty, fidelity and disinterestedness on the part of the attorney. Its fiduciary nature is intended for the protection of the client. Money of the client or collected for the client or other trust property coming into the possession of the lawyer should be reported and accounted for promptly and should not under any circumstances be commingled with his own or be used by him. Lawyers who misappropriate the funds entrusted to them are in gross violation of professional ethics and are guilty of betrayal of public confidence in the legal profession. The Supreme Court suspended Ulep for 6 months and ordered him to pay the P50k plus interest.

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