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Diligence in all undertakings, C4S4 CPRA

Section 4, Canon IV

SECTION 4. Diligence in all undertakings. – A lawyer shall observe diligence in all professional undertakings, and shall not cause or occasion delay in any legal matter before any court, tribunal, or other agency.
A lawyer shall appear for trial adequately familiar with the law, the facts of the case, and the evidence to be presented. A lawyer shall also be ready with the object and documentary evidence, as well as the judicial affidavits of the witnesses, when required by the rules or the court. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Diligence in all undertakings

a. Observe diligence

Under this section, lawyers are required to “observe diligence in all professional undertakings.”

An attorney is bound to protect his client’s interest to the best of his ability and with utmost diligence. (Sps. Antonio v. Reyes, A.C. No. 4676, May 04, 2006, Per Chico-Nazario, J.)

See related

Diligence and punctuality, C4S3 CPRA

b. No causing delay

Further, lawyers are prohibited from causing or occasioning “delay in any legal matter before any court, tribunal, or other agency.”

Once a judgment becomes final and executory, the prevailing party should not be denied the fruits of his victory by some subterfuge devised by the losing party. Unjustified delay in the enforcement of a judgment sets at naught the role of courts in disposing justiciable controversies with finality. (Montehermoso v. Batuto, G.R. No. 246553, December 02, 2020, Per Lazaro-Javier, J.)

AVIDA Land Corporation v. Argosino, A.C. No. 7437, August 17, 2016, Per Sereno, CJ.:

• [Respondent-lawyer] cannot hide behind the pretense of advocating his client’s cause to escape liability for his actions that delayed and frustrated the administration of justice.

• He even attempted to tum the tables on complainant by pointing out that the “legal blunders” of the latter’s counsel contributed to the delay in the execution of the judgment. Whether or not the actions or omissions of complainant’s counsel brought dire consequences to its client’s cause is not a factor in the instant case. Even assuming for argument’s sake that complainant’s counsel committed procedural errors that prolonged some of the case incidents, these errors did not prejudice the delivery of justice, as they were later cured. More important, the so-called “blunders” were independent of respondent’s actions, which were the direct cause of the delay.

• Respondent argues that he could not have possibly delayed the execution of the judgment, as no Motion for Execution of Judgment had been filed when the instant administrative case was instituted. This argument can no longer be considered viable, as he continued to employ dilatory tactics even after the Writ of Execution had already been issued, and complainant later filed Supplemental Complaints against him.

• What is patent from the acts of respondent – as herein narrated and evident from the records – is that he has made a mockery of judicial processes, disobeyed judicial orders, and ultimately caused unjust delays in the administration of justice…

• Further, respondent violated the [old Lawyer’s Oath] by disobeying the legal orders of a duly constituted authority, and disregarding his sworn duty to “delay no man for money or malice.”

NB: The Revised Lawyer’s Oath under the CPRA no longer has the phrase “delay no man for money or malice.”

1) Delay

Under the old Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), the wording was “undue delay.” Whereas in the Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability (CPRA), it speaks of “delay” without any qualification such as “undue” used in the old CPR.

Canlapan v. Balayo, A.C. No. 10605, February 17, 2016, Per Leonen, J.:

• With respect to the other charges against respondent, we find them to have not been adequately proven.

• Complainant avers that it was immoral and gross misconduct on the part of respondent, who was not a party to the case, to prevent the due implementation of the Memorandum of Agreement dated June 7, 2014…

• Complainant argues that the foregoing actuations of respondent violate Canon 12, Rule 12.04 [of the old CPR], which demands that lawyers should not “unduly delay a case, impede the execution of judgment or misuse ¦court processes.” He adds that respondent should have encouraged the peaceful resolution of the labor case considering that the parties had already signed the compromise agreement.

• We find nothing improper in the actions and statements of respondent. What respondent did was a mere honest effort to protect the interest of his client, the Chair of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines – Mayon Albay Council. The Boy Scouts of the Philippines is a public corporation or government instrumentality; hence, the money to be paid to complainant is public money and subject to audit by the Commission on Audit. Hence, if the Memorandum of Agreement causes any undue injury to any party, including the government, the parties to the Agreement can be brought to court on administrative and/or criminal charges.

c. Appear prepared for trial

When appearing for trial, lawyers are required:

1) To be adequately familiar with the law, the facts of the case, and the evidence to be presented; and

2) To be ready with the object and documentary evidence, as well as the judicial affidavits of the witnesses, when required by the rules or the court.

1) Failure to file pre-trial brief

The importance of filing a pre-trial brief cannot be gainsaid. For one, the lawyers are compelled to prepare their cases in advance. They eliminate haphazard preparation. Since pre-trial is a serious business of the court, preparation of the lawyers and parties for the pre-trial in both questions of fact and of law cannot be overemphasized as an essential requirement for a pre-trial conference. They enable both parties to view the documentary evidence of the other even before they are presented in court. They enable the parties to know the testimonies of each other’s witnesses. Pre-trial briefs also apprise the courts of the additional points the parties are willing to stipulate upon, or the additional points which could be inquired into for the purpose of additional stipulations. They also apprise the court of the respective demands of the parties, thus, enabling the court to discuss more intelligently an amicable settlement between or among the parties. The failure to submit a pre-trial brief could very well, then, be fatal to the case of the client as in fact it is a ground for dismissal of the case. (Sps. Antonio v. Reyes [2006], supra.)

Sps. Antonio v. Reyes, A.C. No. 4676, May 04, 2006, Per Chico-Nazario, J.:

• Respondent’s failure to file the pre-trial brief constitutes inexcusable negligence… For this reason, respondent’s failure to submit the pre-trial brief to the court within the given period constitutes negligence which entails disciplinary action. Not only is it a dereliction of duty to his client but to the court as well.

• A failure to file brief for his client certainly constitutes inexcusable negligence on his part. The respondent has indeed committed a serious lapse in the duty owed by him to his client as well as to the Court not to delay litigation and to aid in the speedy administration of justice.

• In this case, respondent did not only fail to file the pre-trial brief within the given period. Worse, he had not submitted the required pre-trial brief even at the time he filed a motion for reconsideration of the order of dismissal several months later. Expectedly, the motion for reconsideration was denied by the court. Respondent’s negligence is apparent in the trial court’s denial of the motion for reconsideration

References

Canon IV, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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