SC Clarifies Guidelines for the Lifting of Lawyers’ Suspension
October 10, 2023
A lawyer’s administrative suspension is lifted instantly upon filing of a sworn statement of compliance. The Supreme Court’s confirmation is not required.
Thus held the Supreme Court’s Special Second Division, in a Resolution penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda, responding to the request for clarification from the Office of the Bar Confidant (OBC) on the Court’s January 2023 ruling in A.C. No. 11032.
A.C. No. 11032 laid down uniform guidelines governing the lifting of the penalty of a lawyer’s suspension.
The OBC sought clarification on the portion of the Court’s ruling in A.C. No. 11032 which states that the order of suspension shall be automatically lifted upon submission by the suspended lawyer of a sworn statement of service of suspension.
The OBC interpreted the said pronouncement to mean that the automatic lifting of suspension still requires court confirmation.
The Court, however, clarified that no court confirmation is required for an order of disciplinary suspension to be lifted following the filing of a sworn statement of compliance.
“Indeed, the intent underlying in the Court’s Decision in [A.C. No. 11032] was to make the process of lifting disciplinary suspension from the practice of law efficient,” said the Court.
The Court added that A.C. No. 11032 “acknowledged the burden and delay which accompanies the process of securing certifications from various courts and agencies attesting to the suspended lawyer’s desistance from practicing law during the period of suspension.”
Thus, a suspended lawyer no longer needs to await the processing and granting of certificates of compliance from courts and quasi-judicial agencies.
“As a necessary consequence of the automatic lifting of suspension, the resumption of the practice of law is likewise deemed automatic. There is nothing in [A.C. No. 11032] which requires the Court’s confirmation before the suspension may be lifted or the practice of law allowed to resume,” said the Court.
“Lawyers should not be unduly deprived of the privilege and the benefits of practicing the profession once the objectives of the disciplinary sanction have been achieved by the lapse of the period of suspension,” the Court held.
The Court also clarified that the lifting of a lawyer’s suspension should be reckoned from the time of filing the required sworn statement.
The Court further tasked the OBC to carefully note and record the filings of such sworn statements of compliance.
The Court concluded with a warning that any finding or report contrary to the statements made by suspended lawyers under oath shall be a ground for the imposition of a more severe punishment, or even disbarment.
“While the lifting of administrative suspensions has now been made faster and more efficient, this does not mean that the Court will be similarly liberal to those who would submit false certifications or otherwise exploit the process,” stressed the Court. (Courtesy of the Supreme Court Public Information Office)
Full text of A.C. 12443 (Bernaldo E. Valdez v. Atty. Winston B. Hipe) at: https://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/12443-bernaldo-e-valdez-vs-atty-winston-b-hipe/