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Negligent lawyer suspended by SC.

MANILA -- The Supreme Court has suspended a lawyer from the practice of law for two years for failing to comply with the time limits in the filing of appeals for her client, causing the client to lose "his entire case [and] leaving him with no appellate remedies."

In a 10page resolution dated Feb. 3, the high court suspended lawyer Mercedes BuhayangMargallo for "being unjustifiably remiss in her duties as legal counsel," and failing to do a lawyer's duty to "exercise the necessary diligence and competence in managing cases entrusted to them."

Margallo's suspension arose from a civil case filed by one Reynaldo Ramirez, with the lawyer offering her services for free, allegedly upon the request of Ramirez's mother.

Speaking for the Supreme Court, decision writer Justice Marvic Leonen cited relevant rules from the Canons of Professional Responsibility for Lawyers, and said that lawyers were expected to maintain a high degree of legal proficiency and attention regardless of whether the legal service was paid or rendered pro bono (free).

"[Ramirez's] legal cause was orphaned, not because a court of law ruled on the merits of his case but because a person privileged to act as counsel failed to discharge her duties with the requisite diligence She failed to exhaust [all] possible means to protect Ramirez's interest, which is contrary to what she had sworn to do as a member of the legal profession," the high tribunal ruled.

After losing at the regional trial court of Binangonan in Rizal, Ramirez elevated his case to the Court of Appeals in 2008, which directed him to file an appellant's brief. According to the Rules of Court, appeals must be filed within a required period, or it will be denied.

Margallo was immediately notified of this requirement, and on several occasions, Ramirez followed up on the status of the brief.

In 2009, the lawyer informed Ramirez that his appeal was denied due to lack of evidence. Recourse to the Supreme Court was also unlikely because the period for filing another appeal had already lapsed.

Ramirez himself went to the Court of Appeals and discovered that the appellant's brief was filed on April 13, 2009, with a motion for reconsideration and apologies for having been filed beyond the required period.

The Supreme Court ruled that Margallo's "inaction" resulted in a lost appeal and terminated her client's case, not on its merits, but due to her negligence.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Feb 6, 2015
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