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4. Proceedings


Proceedings against attorneys shall be private and confidential, except that the final order of the court shall be made public as in other cases coming before the court. (Section 18, Rule 139-B; See also Section 10, Rule 139, Rules of Court)

The purpose of the rule is not only to enable the Supreme Court to make its investigations free from any extraneous influence or interference, but also to protect the personal and professional reputation of attorneys and judges from the baseless charges of disgruntled, vindictive, and irresponsible clients and litigants; it is also to deter the press from publishing administrative cases or portions thereto without authority. We have ruled that malicious and unauthorized publication or verbatim reproduction of administrative complaints against lawyers in newspapers by editors and/or reporters may be actionable. Such premature publication constitutes a contempt of court, punishable by either a fine or imprisonment or both at the discretion of the Court. The lawyer as an aggrieved party may recover damages in a civil suit filed for the purpose; or may choose to waive the confidentiality of proceedings in the disbarment case against him/her. (Saludo v. CA, Gorospe, G.R. No. 121404, 03 May 2006)

Section 18, Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court is not a restriction on the freedom of the press. If there is a legitimate public interest, media is not prohibited from making a fair, true, and accurate news report of a disbarment complaint. In the absence of a legitimate public interest in a disbarment complaint, members of the media must preserve the confidentiality of disbarment proceedings during its pendency. Disciplinary proceedings against lawyers must still remain private and confidential until their final determination. Only the final order of this Court shall be published like its decisions in other cases. (Fortun v. Quinsayas, G.R. No. 194578, 13 February 2013)

While proceedings against attorneys should, indeed, be private and confidential except for the final order which shall be made public, that confidentiality is a privileged/ right which may be waived by the very lawyer in whom and for the protection of whose personal and professional reputation it is vested, pursuant to the general principle that rights may be waived unless the waiver is contrary to public policy, among others. (Villalon v. IAC, G.R. No. 73751, 24 September 1986)

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