G.R. No. 210554. August 05, 2015 (Case Brief / Digest)

**Title:** Kimteng vs. Young et al.

David Yu Kimteng and others, the majority stockholders of Ruby Industrial Corporation, were engaged in a legal battle concerning the liquidation of the corporation, as ordered by the Philippine Supreme Court. This case was transferred to the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Mandaluyong City, Branch 211, presided over by Judge Ofelia L. Calo. The law firm Young Revilla Gambol & Magat entered their appearance as counsels for the liquidator.

An Opposition was filed against the firm’s appearance, highlighting Anastacio Revilla Jr.’s disbarment in December 2009 and arguing his continued association with the firm might mislead the public. Despite this, the firm maintained Revilla’s name post-disbarment, claiming it was for sentimental reasons. The RTC overruled the opposition, allowing Atty. Young to represent the liquidator provided it was under a different firm name, leading to confusion as the suggested “Young Law Firm” was non-existent.

The petitioners proceeded to file a petition under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court against the attorneys of Young Revilla Gambol & Magat and Judge Calo, citing them for contempt of court. Responses and comments were sought from all parties, but Judge Calo failed to comply, leading to the move of the controversy to the Supreme Court.

1. Whether retaining a disbarred lawyer’s name in a law firm’s name constitutes contempt of court.
2. If allowing a disbarred lawyer to ostensibly continue legal practice by maintaining his name on a law firm’s signage and materials is contemptuous.
3. The legal stance on a judge allowing representation under a non-existent firm name.
4. The question of forum shopping by filing both a disbarment complaint and a contempt petition on the same grounds.

**Court’s Decision:**
The Supreme Court found Atty. Walter T. Young and Atty. Dan Reynald R. Magat in contempt for keeping the name of a disbarred lawyer in their firm’s name, violating professional ethics and misleading the public. Each was fined P30,000. The complaint against Atty. Gambol was dismissed due to his proactive steps to avoid deception. Judge Calo’s actions were deemed a mistake in judgment, but not contemptuous, instead prompting an administrative review. The court addressed each issued meticulously, stressing the importance of maintaining ethical standards in legal practice and the distinctive responsibilities of judges and lawyers.

**Doctrine:** A disbarred lawyer’s name should not be used in a law firm’s name as it misleads the public and disrespects the legal profession’s ethical standards. Lawyers appearing under such a name indirectly commit contempt of court.

**Class Notes:**

– **Contempt of Court**: Acts that disrespect the court’s authority or obstruct justice can lead to being cited for contempt, as per Rule 71 of the Rules of Court.

– **Ethical Standards in Practice**: As per the Code of Professional Responsibility, specifically Canon 3, Rule 3.02, misleading firm names are prohibited. The case emphasizes the legal community’s responsibility to adhere to ethical standards, including truthfulness in representing legal qualifications and firm composition.

– **Forum Shopping**: Filing multiple cases based on the same issues across different venues to get a favorable decision is discouraged and may be penalized, but distinct actions (contempt and disbarment proceedings, in this context) targeting different outcomes are permissible.

**Historical Background:**
This case underscores the evolving landscape of legal ethics and professional responsibility within the Philippine legal system. It reiterates the imperative of maintaining honesty and integrity within the legal profession to uphold justice and public trust. The decision reinforces the standard that the use of a firm name should accurately reflect the current status of its members, drawing a clear line on the implications of including a disbarred lawyer’s name in firm signage and legal documents.


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