The power to punish for contempt and the power to disbar are separate and distinct, and that the exercise of one does not exclude the exercise of the other

We note that the ground cited in the motion to cite Atty. Quevedo in contempt of court was his violation of Canon 12 and Rule 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.  While a lawyer’s violation of his duties as an officer of the court may also constitute contempt, the grounds for holding a person in contempt and for holding him administratively liable for the violation of his lawyer’s oath are distinct and separate from each other.  They are specified in Rule 71 of the Rules of Court. A finding of contempt on the part of a lawyer does not preclude the imposition of disciplinary sanctions against him for his contravention of the ethics of the legal profession. Thus:

x x x the power to punish for contempt and the power to disbar are separate and distinct, and that the exercise of one does not exclude the exercise of the other.  A contempt proceeding for misbehavior in court is designed to vindicate the authority of the court; on the other hand, the object of a disciplinary proceeding is to deal with the fitness of the court’s officer to continue in that office, to preserve and protect the court and the public from the official ministrations of persons unfit or unworthy to hold such office.  The principal purpose of the exercise of the power to cite for contempt is to safeguard the functions of the court [while that] of the exercise of disciplinary authority by the Supreme Court is to assure respect for orders of such court by attorneys who, as much as judges, are responsible for the orderly administration of justice.

Moreover, it has been held that the imposition of a fine as a penalty in a contempt proceeding is not considered res judicata to a subsequent charge for unprofessional conduct.  In the same manner, an attorney’s conviction for contempt was not collaterally estopped by reason of a subsequent disbarment proceeding in which the court found in his favor on essentially the same facts leading to conviction.  It has likewise been the rule that a notice to a lawyer to show cause why he should not be punished for contempt cannot be considered as a notice to show cause why he should not be suspended from the practice of law, considering that they have distinct objects and for each of them a different procedure is established.  Contempt of court is governed by the procedures laid down under Rule 71 of the Rules of Court, whereas disciplinary actions in the practice of law are governed by Rules 138 and 139 thereof.

Although apparently different in legal bases, the authority to punish for contempt and to discipline lawyers are both inherent in the Supreme Court and are equally incidents of the court’s basic power to oversee the proper administration of justice and the orderly discharge of judicial functions. As was succinctly expounded in Zaldivar v. Sandiganbayan, et al.:

There are, in other words, two (2) related powers which come into play in cases like that before us here: the Court’s inherent power to discipline attorneys and the contempt power.  The disciplinary authority of the Court over members of the Bar is broader [than] the power to punish for contempt.  Contempt of court may be committed both by lawyers and non-lawyers, both in and out of court.  Frequently, where the contemnor is a lawyer, the contumacious conduct also constitutes professional misconduct which calls into play the disciplinary authority of the Supreme Court.  Where the respondent is a lawyer, however, the Supreme Court’s disciplinary authority over lawyers may come into play whether or not the misconduct with which the respondent is charged also constitutes contempt of court.  The power to punish for contempt of court does not exhaust the scope of disciplinary authority of the Court over lawyers.  The disciplinary authority of the Court over members of the Bar is but corollary to the Court’s exclusive power of admission to the Bar. A lawyer is not merely a professional but also an officer of the court and as such, he is called upon to share in the task and responsibility of dispensing justice and resolving disputes in society. Any act on his part which visibly tends to obstruct, pervert, or impede and degrade the administration of justice constitutes both professional misconduct calling for the exercise of disciplinary action against him, and contumacious conduct warranting application of the contempt power.[21]

We therefore refer the complaint against Atty. Quevedo’s behavior to the Committee on Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines for an investigation of his possible liabilities under Canon 12 and Rule 12.04 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.

WHEREFORE, Atty. Frederico P. Quevedo is hereby found GUILTY of INDIRECT CONTEMPT for which a FINE of P30,000 is imposed upon him, payable in full within five days from receipt of this resolution.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2005/aug2005/158971.htm

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About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Contempt, Judicial and Legal Ethics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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