Lawyer suspended for failure to file petition despite receipt of ‘package engagement fee’
The Supreme Court suspended a lawyer for two years for failing to file a petition for annulment of marriage despite receiving “package engagement fee” from her client.
In a seven-page decision penned by Justice Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, the SC found Atty. Grace C. Buri guilty of violating Rule 1.01 of Canon 1, Canon 15, Rules 16.01 and 16.03 of Canon 16, and Rule 18.03 of Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility and imposed on her a two year suspension, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same would be dealt with more severely.
The Court also ordered Buri to pay P5,000 fine for failure to comply with the directives of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP)-Commission on Bar Discipline and to return to complainant Pia Marie B. Go the P188,000 in legal fees within 90 days from the finality of this decision.
Go engaged Buri’s services in 2012 to file a petition for annulment of her marriage before the RTC of Muntinlupa for P150,000 as “package engagement fee” and professional services.
Subsequently, Go asked Buri to “hold” her case as she had to deal with various personal problems to which Buri allegedly withdrew the petition for annulment supposedly filed before the RTC. When Go decided in 2015 to push through with the annulment, Buri asked for an additional P38,000 for the re-filing of the case.
But despite several demands, Buri failed to furnish Go with copies of the original and the re-filed petition for annulment and to issue receipts for the money Buri had received. Upon verification with the Office of the Clerk of Court of the RTC, Go learned that there was no petition filed by Buri on her behalf prompting her to file the instant administrative complaint against Buri.
The Court held that “[Buri’s] acts of neglecting her clients affairs, failing to return the latter’s money and/or property despite demand, and at the same time, committing acts of misrepresentation against her client, constitute professional misconduct for which she must be held administratively liable.”