(Question I-A, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 2017 Bar Exam)
Brando & Luzon Law Office had a retainer agreement with Gregory, a businessman with shady connections. Gregory was recently charged in the RTC in Manila with money laundering in relation to an illegal drugs syndicate using Cable Co., his holding company, as its money laundering conduit. The members of the Brando & Luzon Law Office assigned to handle Gregory’s account, including yourself, were implicated in the money laundering case for their role in the incorporation of Cable Co. and in the active management of its business affairs.
In a bid to fortify the case against Gregory and the others, the public prosecutor approaches you (as the least guilty person who will qualify for a discharge as a state witness) and offers to make you a state witness. Should you accept the offer? Explain your answer. (5%)
Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, an attorney cannot, without the consent of his client, be examined as to any communication made by the client to him, or his advice given thereon in the course of, or with a view to, professional employment. This is the rule on attorney-client privilege. Rule
In the case at bar, I am covered by the attorney-client privilege. Accordingly, without the consent of the client, I cannot be a witness to any communication made by him to me, or any advice I may have given in the course of, or with a view to, the professional employment of the law firm. Apply
Thus, I should not accept the offer. Conclusion
(Question I-B, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 2017 Bar Exam)
Under the facts of the preceding question, assume that you had resigned from the Brando & Luzon Law Office prior to the filing of the money laundering case against Gregory and the others, and that you were not implicated in the case. However, you had assisted in handling the Cobra Co. account during your time with the law firm. Cobra Co. was largely owned by Cable Co.
The public prosecutor handling the case against Gregory and the others asks you, as a former member of the Brando & Luzon Law Office, to help strengthen the case for the Government, and hints that you may be implicated in the case if you do not cooperate. What is your legal and ethical course of action? Explain your answer. (5%)
I will still decline to be a witness due to the application of the attorney-client privilege. Answer
Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall preserve the confidence and secrets of his client even after the attorney-client relations is terminated. Answer
In the case at bar, I handled Gregory’s account, including Cable Co., and assisted in handling the Cobra Co., which is largely owned by Cable Co. Accordingly, the rule on attorney-client privilege prohibits me from being a witness to the clients even after the termination of my employment. Apply
Thus, I cannot be a witness against the said clients. Conclusion
(Notice: The suggested answers simulate those that a bar examinee may provide, and thus specific citations are not provided. Notwithstanding, in the reviewers, the bar exam question is answered under the appropriate topic which discusses the concepts and principles, as well as provide for specific citations. Accordingly, please refer to it on the reviewer or in the Library.)
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