SC suspends abogado for refusing to return fees after client cancelled plan to press charges
The Supreme Court (SC) has suspended abogado Giovanni Luna for three months for refusing to return P43,500 in fees after his client decided not to go ahead with filing a grave threats and unjust vexation complaint.
In a recent 6-page decision, the SC 1st Division found Luna guilty of violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and ordered him to return the money to complainant Fernando Flora III with 6% legal interest.
Flora said he dropped his plan to file a complaint against an Indian national, because they amicably settled their dispute at the barangay level even without Luna’s participation.
When Flora demanded his money back for the cancelled case, Luna allegedly shouted at him and said the money was not enough for his services. Luna did not answer the complaint.
The SC said there “was no reason at all for respondent to retain the money, or even ask for it in the first place,” especially since the parties did not need to be represented by lawyers in barangay mediation proceedings.
Although acceptance fees were “generally non-refundable,” the SC said this “presupposes that the lawyer has rendered legal service to his client.” Since Luna did not do so, he had “no right to retain complainant’s payment.”
“Respondent not only unjustifiably refused to return the money but also verbally abused complainant in the process. Respondent’s unseemly behavior is a blot on the legal profession,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo.