Monday, March 26, 2012

Sebastian vs. Bajar [A.C. No. 3731 September 7, 2007]

Facts: Respondent is a lawyer of the Bureau of Agrarian Legal Assistance (BALA) of the Department of Agrarian Reform who represented Fernando Tanlioco (Tanlioco) in numerous cases. Tanlioco is an agricultural lessee of a land owned by Manuel Sebastian’s (complainant) spouse and sister-in-law. The landowners filed an Ejectment case against Tanlioco on the basis of a conversion order of the land use from agricultural to residential. The Regional Trial Court (RTC) rendered judgment ordering Tanlioco’s ejectment subject to the payment of disturbance compensation. The RTC’s judgment was affirmed by the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. 

However, Atty. Emily Bajar (respondent), as Tanlioco’s counsel, filed another case for Specific Performance to produce the conversion order. The RTC dismissed the complaint due to res judicata and lack of cause of action. Respondent filed another case for Maintenance of Possession with the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board. The case raised the same issues of conversion and disturbance compensation. 

Hence, on 18 October 1991, Manuel S. Sebastian filed a disbarment complaint against Atty. Emily A. Bajar for "obstructing, disobeying, resisting, rebelling, and impeding final decisions of Regional Trial Courts, the Court of Appeals and of the Honorable Supreme Court, and also for submitting those final decisions for the review and reversal of the DARAB, an administrative body, and for contemptuous acts and dilatory tactics." 

Issue: Whether or not respondent obstructed, disobeyed, and resisted the decisions of the Court which may cause her disbarment. 

Held: After a careful review of the records, the Court finds the evidence on record sufficient to support the IBP’s findings that [1.] Respondent appealed a case for purposes of delay which amounted to an obstruction of justice; and [2.] Respondent abused her right of recourse to the courts. The duplication or multiplication of suits should be avoided and respondent’s acts were tantamount to forum-shopping which is a reprehensible manipulation of court processes and proceedings. 

It must be noted that officers of the court shall be competent, honorable, and reliable men in whom the public may repose confidence "Lawyers must at all times faithfully perform their duties to society, to the bar, to the courts, and to their clients. Their conduct must always reflect the values and norms of the legal profession as embodied in the Code of Professional Responsibility. On these considerations, the Court may disbar or suspend lawyers for any professional or private misconduct showing them to be wanting in moral character, honesty, probity, and good demeanor — or to be unworthy to continue as officers of the Court." 

Respondent’s acts constitute gross misconduct and willful disobedience of lawful orders of a superior court. Hence, respondent was ordered suspended for three years. 

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