The Supreme Court has disbarred a lawyer for continuous refusal to remit the settlement proceeds to his client despite repeated demands in violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility.
In an eight-page en banc decision, the SC ordered the name of Atty. Jude Francis V. Zambrano stricken off from the Roll of Attorneys.
The high court also directed Zambrano to immediately remit to complainant Diwei “Bryan” Huang the full amount of P250,000 with six percent interest from finality of the decision until full payment and to submit to it proof of payment within 10 days from said payment.
In particular, the SC found Zambrano guilty of violating Rule 1.01 of the CPR, which provides that “a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral, or deceitful conduct.”
He was also found liable for violating CPR’s Rule 16.01, which states that “a lawyer shall account for all money or property collected or received for or from the client,” and Rule 16.03 which provides that “a lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand . . .”
The Court held that Zambrano’s ignoring of “consecutive follow-ups and demands from the client without any acceptable reason corrodes the client’s trust and stains the legal profession.”
Sometime in October 2014, Huang, a citizen of Singapore, engaged Zambrano’s services for P50,000 to file a criminal case for estafa against several individuals before the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City.
As Huang was often out of the country, he communicated with Zambrano through email or Facebook chat messages.
In January 2015, Zambrano informed Huang that the respondents in the estafa case were willing to pay Huang P250,000 settlement.
Huang then suggested that respondents either directly deposit the settlement money to his account or for Zambrano to give the money after the latter collected the same from the respondents to his (Huang’s) friend Ang Kevin Kar Wai.
Zambrano rejected both suggestions, claiming that as to the first option, payment must first be coursed to him before to Huang; and as to second option, that he would be unable to track the money once given to Ang, whom he does not know.
Despite the respondents having already given Zambrano the settlement money, the latter did not turn over the money to Huang, telling the latter that the estafa case had not yet been formally dismissed and citing his busy schedule as well as personal and family issues.