Merit-based practice, C1S2 CPRA

Section 2, Canon I

SECTION 2. Merit-based practice. – A lawyer shall rely solely on the merits of a cause and not exert, or give the appearance of, any influence on, nor undermine the authority of, the court, tribunal or other government agency, or its proceedings. (2023 Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability or CPRA)

1. Merit-based practice

Merits of a cause

Merit – means “the substance of a legal case apart from matters of jurisdiction, procedure, or form.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

When pursuing a cause on behalf of clients, lawyers should rely on the merits thereof.

Thus, it is crucial that a lawyer should carefully evaluate and consider the client’s cause. If there is merit to what the clients are pursuing, then the lawyers should pursue the rights and interest of the said clients. On the other hand, if there is no merit to the client’s case, then the lawyers should be forthcoming and advise them accordingly.

NB: Not all law practice will involve pursuing a cause, such as contract review, policy making, and general legal documentation.

No to influence peddling or undermining courts, tribunals, government agencies

Influence peddling – means “the use of power or influence on someone else’s behalf in return for money or favours.” (Collins Online Dictionary)

Undermining – means “to subvert or weaken insidiously or secretly.” (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary)

The prohibition against influence peddling is not limited to courts and/or tribunals involving litigation or arbitration, but also extends to government offices and agencies.

A lawyer that approaches a judge to try to gain influence and receive a favorable outcome for his or her client [violated Canon 13 of the old CPR against influence-peddling]. (Dumlao v. Camacho, A.C. No. 10498, 04 September 2018)

The [old CPR] prohibits acts of influence-peddling not limited to the regular courts, but even in all other venues in the justice sector, where respect for the rule of law is at all times demanded from a member of the bar. (Vizconde v. Verano, En Banc, A.C. No. 8108, 15 July 2014)

The highly immoral implication of a lawyer approaching a judge – or a judge evincing a willingness – to discuss, in private, a matter related to a case pending in that judge’s sala cannot be over-emphasized. A lawyer is duty-bound to actively avoid any act that tends to influence, or may be seen to influence, the outcome of an ongoing case, lest the people’s faith in the judicial process is diluted. The primary duty of lawyers is not to their clients but to the administration of justice. To that end, their clients’ success is wholly subordinate. The conduct of a member of the bar ought to and must always be scrupulously observant of the law and ethics. Any means, not honorable, fair and honest which is resorted to by the lawyer, even in the pursuit of his devotion to his client’s cause, is condemnable and unethical. (Dumlao v. Camacho [2018], supra.)


Canon I, 2023 Code of Professional Responsibility

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