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Diginified conduct, C2S2 CPRA

Section 2, Canon II

SECTION 2. Dignified conduct. – A lawyer shall respect the law, the courts, tribunals, and other government agencies, their officials, employees, and processes, and act with courtesy, civility, fairness, and candor towards fellow members of the bar.
A lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on one’s fitness to practice law, nor behave in a scandalous manner, whether in public or private life, to the discredit of the legal profession. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Dignified conduct

a. Respect the law, the courts, tribunals, and other government agencies, their officials, employees, and processes

It is the duty of a lawyer, as an officer of the court, to uphold the dignity and authority of the courts. Respect for the courts guarantees the stability of the judicial institution; without this guarantee, the institution would be resting on very shaky foundations. (Baculi v. Battung, A.C. No. 8920, 28 September 2011)

[Respondent-lawyer] failed to obey the trial court’s order to submit proof of his MCLE compliance notwithstanding the several opportunities given him. “Court orders are to be respected not because the judges who issue them should be respected, but because of the respect and consideration that should be extended to the judicial branch of the Government. This is absolutely essential if our Government is to be a government of laws and not of men. Respect must be had not because of the incumbents to the positions, but because of the authority that vests in them. Disrespect to judicial incumbents is disrespect to that branch the Government to which they belong, as well as to the State which has instituted the judicial system.” (Rodriguez-Manahan v. Flores, A.C. No. 8954, 13 November 2013)

1) Dignified and respectful language

Well-recognized is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate channels the acts of courts and judges. Though a lawyer’s language may be forceful and emphatic, it should always be dignified and respectful, befitting the dignity of the legal profession. The use of unnecessary language is proscribed if we are to promote high esteem in the courts and trust in judicial administration. (Ng v. Alar, A.C. No. 7252, 22 November 2006)

It must be remembered that the language vehicle does not run short of expressions which are emphatic but respectful, convincing but not derogatory, illuminating but not offensive. (Ibid.)

No doubt, the language contained in the 30 July 2001 motion greatly exceeded the vigor required of Jacoba to defend ably his client’s cause. We recall his use of the following words and phrases: abhorrent nullity, legal monstrosity, horrendous mistake, horrible error, boner, and an insult to the judiciary and an anachronism in the judicial process. Even Velasco-Jacoba acknowledged that the words created “a cacophonic picture of total and utter disrespect.” (Lacurom v. Jacoba, A.C. No. 5921)

2) Even in pleadings

In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

3) No offensive personality

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. (Saberon v. Larong [2008], supra.)

4) When critical of courts or judges

An attorney or any other person may be critical of the courts and their judges provided the criticism is made in respectful terms and through legitimate channels. (Habawel v. CTA, G.R. No. 174759, 07 September 2011)

Every citizen has the right to comment upon and criticize the actuations of public officers. This right is not diminished by the fact that the criticism is aimed at a judicial authority, or that it is articulated by a lawyer. Such right is especially recognized where the criticism concerns a concluded litigation, because then the court’s actuation are thrown open to public consumption. Courts and judges are not sacrosanct. They should and expect critical evaluation of their performance. For like the executive and the legislative branches, the judiciary is rooted in the soil of democratic society, nourished by the periodic appraisal of the citizens whom it is expected to serve. Well-recognized therefore is the right of a lawyer, both as an officer of the court and as a citizen, to criticize in properly respectful terms and through legitimate channels the acts of courts and judges. (In Re: Almacen, G.R. No. L-27654, 18 February 1970)

5) Law educators

Academic freedom cannot be successfully invoked by respondents-lawyers who are educators. The implicit ruling in the jurisprudence is that the constitutional right to freedom of expression of members of the Bar may be circumscribed by their ethical duties as lawyers to give due respect to the courts and to uphold the public’s faith in the legal profession and the justice system. The reason that freedom of expression may be so delimited in the case of lawyers applies with greater force to the academic freedom of law professors. (Re: Letter of the UP Law Faculty, A.M. No. 10-10-4-SC, 08 March 2011)

On many occasions, the Court has reminded members of the Bar to abstain from all offensive personality and to advance no fact prejudicial to the honor or reputation of a party or witness, unless required by the justice of the cause with which he is charged. In keeping with the dignity of the legal profession, a lawyer’s language even in his pleadings must be dignified. (Saberon v. Larong, A.C. No. 6567, 16 April 2008)

b. Act with courtesy, civility, fairness, and candor

Courtesy – means “behavior marked by polished manners or respect for others.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Civility – means “civilized conduct,” “a polite act or expression.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Fairness – means “the quality or state of being fair,” “[especially] fair or impartial treatment :lack of favoritism toward one side or another.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Camdor – means “unreserved, honest, or sincere expression.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

Lawyers should treat their opposing counsels and other lawyers with courtesy, dignity and civility. A great part of their comfort, as well as of their success at the bar, depends upon their relations with their professional brethren. Since they deal constantly with each other, they must treat one another with trust and respect. Any undue ill feeling between clients should not influence counsels in their conduct and demeanor toward each other. Mutual bickering, unjustified recriminations and offensive behavior among lawyers not only detract from the dignity of the legal profession, but also constitute highly unprofessional conduct subject to disciplinary action. (Reyes v. Chiong, A.C. No. 5148, 01 July 2003)

Where a lawyer handling a criminal case instituted a civil complaint impleading the other party’s counsel and the prosecutor to gain leverage, he was held liable for harassing opposing counsel. It appears that respondent-lawyer took the estafa case as a personal affront and used the civil case as a tool to return the inconvenience suffered by his client. His actions demonstrate a misuse of the legal process. The aim of every lawsuit should be to render justice to the parties according to law, not to harass them. (Ibid.)

c. No conduct that adversely reflects on one’s fitness to practice law

Lawyers should not engage in any conduct that would adversely reflect their fitness to practice law, whether in public or private life.

While lawyers are not prohibited from engaging in any other conduct outside of the legal profession, engaging in non-legal activities should not bring into question on their skills and ability to practice law.

For example, lawyers who also sing in a band, whether paid or otherwise, may want to avoid performing songs that may bring disrepute to the legal profession, such as songs with laced with profanities or hard-core metallic music.

d. No behavior in a scandalous manner

Scandalous behavior has no place in the legal profession. Lawyers are licensed professionals who are expected to be courteous, respectful, and well-mannered. Thus, they should avoid any scandalous behavior that would discredit not only themselves, but also the community of lawyers constituting the legal profession. This prohibition extends to both public and private life.

For example, lawyers should avoid engaging in scandalous, if not outrageous, statements, whether in-person or online, particularly those that are incendiary designed to rile people to anger or hate another person.

Similarly, lawyers should avoid flaunting their outright disregard or violation of the law. Worse, they should avoid making online content that would encourage others to do so.

References

Canon II, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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