Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The New Code of Judicial Conduct and Corona's Pro Bono Lawyers

The New Code of Judicial Conduct  (as well as the old one, of course) contains a number of provisions that certainly call into question the propriety of the impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona accepting the free legal services of top-ranked lawyer luminaries and their Law Firms to defend him. The controversy has arisen in the Impeachment Trial proper after Rep. Rudy Farinas called attention to it this week.

For example in Section 3 of Canon 4 (Propriety) we find the following provision:
SEC. 3. Judges shall, in their personal relations with individual members of the legal profession who practice regularly in their court, avoid situations which might reasonably give rise to the suspicion or appearance of favoritism or partiality.
It would appear to be common knowledge that the law firms of Serafin Cuevas and others who've flocked to aid the impeached Chief Justice, also have many active high profile high pay off legal cases active in the Supreme Court.   As such, the privileged relationship between the Accused and his counsels represents just the sort of "personal relations" banned in the above provision, for certainly the arrangements have given rise to suspicions that those lawyers and their law firms stand to gain a good deal by their largesse.  Both they and their beneficiary however, are culpable under the present Code of Judicial Conduct and surely the previous ones too.

And again in Section 13 of the same Canon 4:
SEC. 13. Judges and members of their families shall neither ask for, nor accept, any gift, bequest, loan or favor in relation to anything done or to be done or omitted to be done by him or her in connection with the performance of judicial duties.
The services being rendered by the Defense have famously been delivered "pro bono".  Speaking at Kapihan last Monday, former Senator Rene Saguisag said of this matter:
“And here (Corona) is not the only one complicit, but also all his lawyers serving pro bono,” Saguisag added.  During President Clinton’s impeachment trial,” Saguisag continued, “the Clinton couple paid for their legal bills from the proceeds of their respective autobiographies. They really had high-powered lawyers who were not serving for nothing, unlike Corona who is being defended by a battery of high-powered lawyers who were serving for nothing, and therefore were violating with Corona Rule 504 of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

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