Question A.3, 2019 Legal Ethics Bar Exam

A.3.

(Question A.3, Legal and Judicial Ethics, 2019 Bar Exam)

Pending resolution of a high-profile case against him, Justice K uttered, in a public forum hosted by a local Integrated Bar of the Philippines chapter, his comments on the perceived bias of the court against him, as well as on the issues raised by the complainants, his defenses, and the commentaries published by some local newsmen in relation to the case. This is only one instance of his many appearances in different gatherings of such nature in order to defend his public image.

(a) Did Justice K, in his capacity as a lawyer, commit any violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility? If so, what rule did Justice K violate? Explain. (3%)

(b) Arguing that he should be treated as any other ordinary litigant in the said case, may Justice K validly claim that his comments were made in a purely private capacity and hence, not subject to administrative sanction? Explain. (3%)

Suggested Answer:

(a) Yes. Answer

Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party. This is the sub judice rule. Rule

In the case at bar, Justice K as a lawyer made public statements in various public forums pertaining to a pending case against him. His comments on the bias of the court against him, on the issues raised by the complainants, his defenses, and on the commentaries published by local newsmen, all have a tendency to arouse public opinion for him and/or against the other party. Apply

Thus, Justice K committed a violation. Conclusion

(b) No. Answer

Under the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall not engage in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law, nor shall he whether in public or private life, behave in a scandalous manner to the discredit of the legal profession. Rule

In the case at bar, Justice K as a lawyer engaged in conduct that adversely reflects on his fitness to practice law after violating the sub judice rule. His claim that he did so in a purely private capacity is not valid as the prohibition extends even unto a lawyer’s private life. Apply

Thus, Justice K cannot validly claim that his comments were made in a purely private capacity and hence not subject to administrative sanction. Conclusion

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(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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