Corazon Nevada vs Atty. Rodolfo Casuga
Problem Areas in Legal Ethics – Gross Misconduct – Malpractice of Law – Misconduct
In 2007, Corazon Nevada, filed a disbarment case against Atty. Rodolfo Casuga. Nevada alleged the following:
- That Atty. Casuga acquired several pieces of jewelry from her; the jewelries include diamond earrings and diamond rings amounting P300,000.00. and a Rolex gold watch worth $12,000.00; that Casuga assured her that he will sell them; but despite repeated demands, Casuga never remitted any money nor did he return said jewelries.
- That in 2006, Casuga, taking advantage of his close relationship with Nevada (they belong to the same religious sect), Casuga represented himself as the hotel administrator of the hotel (Mt. Crest) that Nevada own; that as such, Casuga was able to enter into a contract of lease with one Jung Chul; that he negotiated an office space with Chul in said Hotel for P90,000.00; that Casuga notarized said agreement; that he forged the signature of Edwin Nevada (husband); that he never remitted the P90k to Nevada.
In his defense, Casuga said:
- That Nevada actually pawned said jewelries in a pawnshop; that she later advised Casuga’s wife to redeem said jewelries using Mrs. Casuga’s wife; that Casuga can sell said jewelries and reimburse herself from the proceeds; that he still has possession of said jewelries.
- That he never received the P90,000.00; that it was received by a certain Pastor Oh; that he was authorized as an agent by Edwin Nevada to enter into said contract of lease.
ISSUE: Whether or not there is merit in Atty. Casuga’s defense.
HELD: No. Atty. Casuga is in violation of the following:
1. Gross Misconduct: Casuga misrepresented himself as a duly authorized representative of Nevada when in fact he was not. He never adduced evidence showing that he was duly authorized either by Edwin or Corazon. He also dialed to adduce evidence proving that he never received the P90k from Chul. On the contrary, a notarized letter showed that Casuga did receive the money. His misrepresentations constitute gross misconduct and his mere denial does not overcome the evidence presented against him.
2. Violated Canon 16 of the Code of Professional Responsibility: It is his duty as a lawyer to account for all moneys and property of his client that may come to his possession. This is still applicable even though said property/money did not come to his possession by virtue of a lawyer-client relationship. He failed to adduce evidence to prove his claim that Nevada pawned said jewelries. He never presented receipts. Further, even assuming that Nevada did pawn said items, Casuga was still duty bound to return said jewelries upon demand by Nevada.
3. Violation of Notarial Rules: He signed a document (contract of lease) in behalf of another person without authorization. His forgery made him an actual party to the contract. In effect he was notarizing a document in which he is party in violation of the notarial rules (Secs. 1 and 3, Rule IV).
4. Malpractice of Law: As a summation of all the above violations, Casuga is guilty of Malpractice and Misconduct. Such act is punishable under Sec. 27, Rule 138 of the Rules of Court. However, the Supreme Court deemed that disbarment is too severe a punishment against Casuga. He was suspended for 4 years from the practice of law. His notarial commission was likewise revoked and he is disqualified to be a notary public while serving his suspension. The Supreme Court emphasized: the penalty of disbarment shall be meted out only when the lawyer’s misconduct borders on the criminal and/or is committed under scandalous circumstance.