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I recently referred a client to my lawyer-relative. After their engagement, I inquired about the nature or some details of the case of my friend, whom I referred to him. To my surprise, he did not even flinch in outrightly blocking me. According to my "not-so-close" lawyer relative, their communication is confidential. As such, he cannot share any information. May I know if a lawyer cannot really share any information such as the one described above to a relative like me?
Please be advised that a lawyer is bound by the prohibition against filial disclosure. This essentially dictates that a lawyer shall not discuss a client's confidences even with family members. For brevity, A.M. No. 22-09-01-SC, otherwise known as the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability reads:
Section 30. Prohibition against filial disclosure. — A lawyer shall not discuss a client's confidences even with family members. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
The aforementioned is based from its predecessor Code of Professional Responsibility which states in Rule 21.06 thereof the following:
Rule 21.06 - A lawyer shall avoid indiscreet conversation about a client's affairs even with members of his family. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Thus, even if you are a relative of a lawyer, the latter cannot share or even have an indiscreet conversation about his or her client's affairs. This is more so considering that the foregoing rule must be read in conjunction with the rule on privileged communication.
To elucidate, lifted are the words of the Supreme Court in the case of Mercado v. Atty. Vitriolo (A.C. No. 5108, 26 May 2005) penned by Retired Honorable Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, enunciating the confidential nature of information acquired by a lawyer in his/her professional capacity, viz.:
"In engaging the services of an attorney, the client reposes on him special powers of trust and confidence. Their relationship is strictly personal and highly confidential and fiduciary. The relation is of such delicate, exacting and confidential nature that is required by necessity and public interest. Only by such confidentiality and protection will a person be encouraged to repose his confidence in an attorney. The hypothesis is that abstinence from seeking legal advice in a good cause is an evil which is fatal to the administration of justice. Thus, the preservation and protection of that relation will encourage a client to entrust his legal problems to an attorney, which is of paramount importance to the administration of justice. One rule adopted to serve this purpose is the attorney-client privilege: an attorney is to keep inviolate his client's secrets or confidence and not to abuse them. Thus, the duty of a lawyer to preserve his client's secrets and confidence outlasts the termination of the attorney-client relationship, and continues even after the client's death. It is the glory of the legal profession that its fidelity to its client can be depended on, and that a man may safely go to a lawyer and converse with him upon his rights or supposed rights in any litigation with absolute assurance that the lawyer's tongue is tied from ever disclosing it. With full disclosure of the facts of the case by the client to his attorney, adequate legal representation will result in the ascertainment and enforcement of rights or the prosecution or defense of the client's cause." (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)
Therefore, applying the foregoing, it must be clear by now why your lawyer-relative did not disclose the information you have requested.
We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.
Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]