FACTS: On October 10, 1969, Clemente M. Soriano, a member of the Philippine Bar entered his appearance in the present case (L-24114, PHHC and U.P. vs. Mencias, Tiburcio, et al.) as "chief counsel of record" for the respondents Marcelino Tiburcio, et al. This act in itself would have been innocuous were it not for the fact that it was done one year and eight months after the decision in this case became final. Atty. Soriano asked the Court to exhume the case from the archives. Atty. Soriano's subsequent explanation did not, however, serve to dissuade this Court from requiring him to show cause why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for entering an appearance at such a late date. He alleged that sometime during the first week of October 1969, the respondent Marcelino Tiburcio, in his own behalf and as attorney-in-fact of the other respondents, went to him to engage his professional services in two cases, to wit: this terminated case (L-24114) and the Varsity Hills case (L-30546). Atty. Soriano allegedly relied upon the assurance of a mutual acquaintance and representation of Marcelino Tiburcio that the two cases were pending in the Court. He then agreed to render professional services in the two cases in consideration of a contingent fee of 143.33 hectares of land out of the 430 hectares (more or less) involved in the two cases.
ISSUE: Whether or not Atty. Soriano is guilty of negligence.
HELD: YES. Before taking over a case handled by a peer in the Bar, a lawyer is enjoined to obtain the conformity of the counsel whom he would substitute. And if this cannot be had, then he should, at the very least, give notice to such lawyer of the contemplated substitution. His entry of appearance in the case without the consent of the first lawyer amounts to an improper encroachment upon the professional employment of the original counsel. Atty. Soriano violates Rule 8.02, Canon 8 of the Code of Professional Responsibility:
Rule 8.02 - A lawyer shall not, directly or indirectly, encroach upon the professional employment of another lawyer; however, it is the right of any lawyer, without fear or favor, to give proper advice and assistance to those seeking relief against unfaithful or neglectful counsel.
We find Atty. Clemente M. Soriano guilty of gross negligence in the performance of his duties as a lawyer and as an officer of this Court. This inexcusable negligence would merit no less than his suspension from the practice of the law profession, were it not for his candor, at the hearing of this incident, in owning his mistake and the apology he made to this Court. It is the sense of this Court, however, that he must be as he is hereby severely censured. Atty. Soriano is further likewise warned that any future similar act will be met with heavier disciplinary sanction.
Atty. Soriano is hereby ordered, in the present case, to forthwith withdraw the appearance that he has entered as chief counsel of record for the respondents Marcelino Tiburcio, et al.