Jan 19, 2021 @ 21:42
SC warns elderly lawyer against submitting motions without notice of hearing
The Supreme Court (SC) has “sternly warned” septuagenarian lawyer Romeo Derez “not to submit any Motion for the consideration of the courts unless the same includes a Notice of Hearing, whenever required”—a rather light penalty that “especially” considered his “advanced age” and his client’s behavior.
In a recent 5-page minute resolution, the SC 3rd Division found Derez guilty of simple negligence, but opted not to require him to take additional Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) units anymore.
This arose from the 2015 complaint of Rex Ferrer, who engaged Derez’s services to represent him in an appeal from an unfavorable decision in an ejectment suit before the Antipolo City Regional Trial Court (RTC).
The RTC dismissed the appeal in 2012 and Derez filed a motion for reconsideration (MR). However, the RTC refused to act on it because it did not contain a notice of hearing.
Derez then filed a petition for review before the Court of Appeals (CA), but it was dismissed for being filed out of time since the appeal period was not tolled by the defective MR.
Ferrer argued that Derez’s failure to prosecute the appeal caused him and his wife moral distress and sleepless nights as they faced ejection from their home.
Derez, in his answer, said he informed Ferrer that he might find it difficult to continue prosecuting the case because he had just suffered a heart attack, but the client opted to retain him as counsel.
He also reasoned out that he failed to include a notice of hearing because he prepared the MR only the day before the RTC decision attained finality.
Derez blamed Ferrer’s repeated refusal to meet him for the delay. When they met, Ferrer decided at the last minute to file an MR before the RTC instead of going straight to the CA as they previously agreed because he could not pay for docket fees.
Derez said that after the RTC denied the MR, he realized his failure and explained the implication to Ferrer. Still, Ferrer opted to retain Derez as his counsel when he brought the case to the CA, even though the latter said he repeatedly asked the former to look for another lawyer.
Ferrer no longer participated in the investigation conducted by Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Commissioner Patrick Velez.
The SC said it was satisfied by Derez’s explanation and gave credence to his admission of mistake and candor in explaining the consequences to Ferrer.
“Given the particular factual circumstances of his health, the time pressure, and his client’s sudden turnaround in strategy, this Court is convinced that Atty. Derez’ mistake is not of such a nature that would merit his disbarment,” read the minute resolution signed by Division Clerk of Court Misael Domingo Battung III.
It agreed with Commissioner Velez that Ferrer would have lost the ejectment case even if Derez prepared a valid appeal, since both the RTC and the CA found it sorely lacking in merit.
The SC added that the records showed Derez was fully aware of the importance of a notice of hearing, but he failed to include it “due to the combined effects of his physical and mental health condition, coupled with the time pressure brought about by his client’s sudden strategic turnaround.”