A.C. No. 9149. September 04, 2013 (Case Brief / Digest)

### Title
Julian Penilla vs. Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr.

### Facts
Julian Penilla engaged Atty. Quintin P. Alcid, Jr. to represent him in a breach of contract case against Spouses Rey and Evelyn Garin for the failed repair of his Volkswagen automobile. Despite full payment, the services were not completed by the Garins. Responding to the non-performance, Atty. Alcid suggested and proceeded with filing an estafa case against the Garins, charging Penilla P30,000 as attorney’s fees and P10,000 for filing fees. Over the course of the proceedings, additional fees were charged for appearances.

As the estafa case went to resolution, Atty. Alcid purportedly advised giving a gift to the Assistant City Prosecutor to ensure a favorable decision, a suggestion Penilla initially resisted but eventually complied with. Subsequently, the estafa case was dismissed, and a motion for reconsideration prepared by Atty. Alcid was similarly denied.

Atty. Alcid then recommended pursuing a civil case for specific performance against the Garins, requiring another P10,000 purportedly for filing fees. After preparing and filing the case, Atty. Alcid ceased communication, despite Penilla’s numerous attempts to inquire about the case status.

Through his own initiative, Penilla discovered the civil case had been dismissed shortly after filing, and the billed filing fees were inflated. Seeking redress, Penilla filed an administrative complaint against Atty. Alcid with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Commission on Bar Discipline (IBP-CBD), alleging professional misconduct, violation of the Lawyer’s Oath, and the Code of Professional Responsibility.

Atty. Alcid countered the allegations, claiming discrepancies in the amounts charged and denying suggestions of unethical practices to influence the legal process. With his defense, Atty. Alcid requested the dismissal of the case for lack of merit.

Despite these disputes, the IBP-CBD proceedings concluded with a recommendation for Atty. Alcid’s suspension owing to various procedural and professional breaches, notably in filing a criminal case where a civil case was pertinent and losing touch with the client regarding case progress and developments.

### Issues
1. Whether Atty. Alcid’s advised actions and actual case handling constituted gross misconduct and violated the Lawyer’s Oath and the Code of Professional Responsibility.
2. Whether Atty. Alcid’s failure to correctly file the appropriate case and to communicate adequately with his client was a breach of professional duty.
3. Whether the penalty recommended by the IBP-CBD aligns with the established facts and applicable law.

### Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court affirmed the IBP-CBD’s findings of professional negligence under Canon 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, also recognizing violations of Canon 17 relating to fidelity to the client’s cause. The Court acknowledged procedural missteps by Atty. Alcid, including the mismanagement of case types and jurisdictions and a failure to communicate effectively with Penilla. The faults represented not merely an incompetence but a gross negligence warranting disciplinary action. Consequently, Atty. Alcid was suspended from the practice of law for six months, with a warning against future misconduct.

### Doctrine
The Court reestablished principles surrounding a lawyer’s duty of competence, diligence, and communication under Canons 17 and 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility. It underlined the obligation for a lawyer to keep the client informed and ensure the fidelity of service throughout legal representation.

### Class Notes
– Canon 17 emphasizes a lawyer’s duty of fidelity to a client’s cause.
– Canon 18 and Rules 18.03 and 18.04 assert the necessity for competence, diligence, and client communication.
– A lawyer’s obligation encompasses proper case filing based on the nature of the claim and jurisdiction.
– Professional fees and expenses must correspond to actual costs and services rendered.
– Gross professional misconduct can result in suspension from law practice.

### Historical Background
This case illustrates the consequences of breaching professional ethics and the judiciary’s stance on upholding ethical standards within the legal profession in the Philippines. It underlines the importance of attorney-client communication and the adherence to procedural and ethical guidelines.


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