Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence


Philippine Supreme Court Jurisprudence > Year 1963 > December 1963 Decisions > A.C. No. 258 December 21, 1963 - RUFINA BAUTISTA v. ATTY. BENJAMIN O. BARRIOS:




PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[A.C. No. 258. December 21, 1963.]

RUFINA BAUTISTA, complainant-petitioner, v. ATTY. BENJAMIN O. BARRIOS, defendant-respondent.


SYLLABUS


1. ATTORNEY AND CLIENT; MALPRACTICE; REPRESENTING CONFLICTING INTERESTS. — Where respondent lawyer had previously prepared a deed of partition for the complaining client, and upon refusal of the adverse party in said deed to comply with the terms thereof, said client asked him to represent her but he refused and she was forced to engage the services of another counsel, yet respondent thereafter appeared for said adverse party and opposed the demand of his former client, it is held that such conduct of respondent constitutes malpractice calling for corrective measures.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; APPEARANCE BY LAWYER EMPLOYED BY BOTH PARTIES TO DRAFT PARTITION FOR ONE AGAINST THE OTHER, DOUBTFUL. — Even supposing that, as claimed by respondent lawyer, he was employed by both parties to draft the partition, it is doubtful whether he could appear for one against the other in a subsequent litigation. At most, if he could appear for one client, it should be for him who seeks to enforce the partition as drafted.


D E C I S I O N


BENGZON, J.:


Rufina Bautista complains that Atty. Barrios committed malpractice in that having drafted a deed of partition at her request, and as her attorney, he afterwards, in a suit to enforce it, refused to appear for her, and what is worse, he appeared instead as counsel for the other party to the deed of partition and opposed her rights thereunder.

The evidence shows that in August 1955, Rufina Bautista engaged the services of respondent Atty. Barrios to draft an extra-judicial partition between Rufina Bautista and her brothers and sisters on one side and Federico Rovero on the other. The deed distributed the conjugal properties of Rovero and his deceased wife Maria Bautista, who was a sister of the Bautistas and who died intestate in 1952. The deed was prepared by said Barrios and was accordingly signed. Thereafter, in September of the same year, because Rovero refused to comply with the terms of the deed, Rufina Bautista sued him (Civil Case No. K-689, Capiz Court of First Instance) to deliver the properties awarded to her in the said extra-judicial partition. She asked respondent Barrios to represent her; but upon his refusal, Rufina was compelled to, and did engage the services of Atty. Artemio S. Arrieta. Thereafter, Atty. Barrios appeared for Federico Rovero, and opposed the demand of Rufina Bautista.

In an attempt to clear himself, respondent Barrios declared that it was not Rufina Bautista who had solicited his services in the preparation of the deed of partition, but that it was Federico Rovero.

As against the contrary assertions of Rufina Bautista, this defense of Atty. Barrios cannot prevail, for the reason that he himself in his answer to the complaint in this Court, admitted that he had prepared the deed "upon the joint request of Federico Rovero, Rufina Bautista and Francisco Bautista." Furthermore, the circumstance that upon refusal of Rovero to comply with the terms of the deed, Rufina went to ask Barrios to enforce it — he admits Rufina went to see him — by filing a complaint against Rovero, strongly corroborates Rufina’s testimony that she had actually engaged his services to draft the partition. Indeed, when she asked him to file the complaint, and he refused, he did not tell her that he has been engaged by Rovero to draft the partition. He merely told her she had no case, and that he was reluctant "to take up a lost cause."cralaw virtua1aw library

On this issue of fact, the Solicitor-General finds against Respondent. And we agree with said official.

Furthermore, even supposing that, as claimed by Atty. Barrios, he was employed by both Rovero and the Bautista brothers to draft the partition, it is doubtful whether he could appear for one as against the other in a subsequent litigation. At most, if he could appear for one client, it should be for him who seeks to enforce the partition as drafted. Yet he appeared for Rovero who sought to avoid compliance with it, asserting that it did not contain all the terms of the agreement, that it was subject to certain modifications, etc. Moreover, in his defense of Rovero, he raised issues which obviously violated Rufina’s confidence, because he alleged — in behalf of Rovero — that the undisclosed modifications were known to Rufina at the time of the execution of the partition.

The inconsistent positions taken by ‘the respondent coupled with some flimsy arguments he has advanced 1 , do not favorably impress this Court with his alleged good faith in the matter.

Corrective measures are called for, and, in accordance with the Solicitor-General’s recommendation, Atty. Barrios is hereby suspended from the practice of his profession for a period of two years from the time this decision becomes final. So ordered.

Padilla, Bautista Angelo, Labrador, Reyes, J.B.L., Barrera, Paredes, Dizon, Regala and Makalintal, JJ., concur.

Concepcion, J., took no part.

Endnotes:



1. For instance, his claim that he contracted no professional duties towards the Bautistas because he had not represented them before any "body, commission or Court."




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