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Agustin vs Atty. Empleo
Legal Ethics – 484 SCRA 91 –Duty of a lawyer in a client’s compromise agreement
Julius Agustin was sued for Forcible Entry with Damages. He hired the services of Atty. Enrique Empleo. In 1998, the trial court ordered the parties to submit their compromise agreement within 15 days. No compromise agreement was submitted and “nothing” happened within the next four years hence the court dismissed the case.
Agustin then filed a disbarment case against Empleo because he said he was prejudiced when the case was dismissed together with his counterclaim therein. Empleo, in his defense, asserted that Agustin actually benefited from the dismissal because he was the defendant therein. Empleo explained that the non-submission of the compromise agreement was due to complainant’s own fault in not contacting him for the purpose of providing the details of said agreement, pointing out that counsels merely assist their clients and do not decide for them in a compromise agreement.
ISSUE: Whether or not Empleo’s assertions are correct.
HELD: No. It is true that a lawyer cannot enter into a compromise agreement without his client’s consent. However, a lawyer is also an officer of the court with the correlative duty to see to it that cases are disposed in the soonest possible time.
Here, Empleo was fully aware that there is a pending court order for the submission of a compromise agreement, he should have taken pains to remind Agustin about it and ascertain the true intent of the latter regarding the same, so that he, as Agustin’s counsel, can make the necessary legal action in order for the case not to be unduly delayed and appear not to be indefinitely pending in the docket of the court concerned. The delay of four years is likewise inexcusable. The period of almost four 4 years of waiting constitutes inaction that caused unnecessary delay in the disposition of said cases. The fact that no damage or prejudice was sustained by Agustin, he being the defendant in that case, is of no moment.
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