SC chief Gesmundo reminds lawyers to ‘be mindful’ of their social media posts

CHIEF Justice Alexander Gesmundo on Wednesday said he is hoping to present to the public soon the final draft of the Proposed Code of Professional Responsibility and Accountability  (CPRA), which seeks to improve and modernize the practice of law as well as provide guidelines for the use of social media by lawyers.

At a news briefing, CJ Gesmundo said the final draft will be presented after consultations with stakeholders.

Gesmundo said the CPRA tackles the use of social media, formation and definition of lawyer-client relationship, conduct of non-legal staff and other intricacies experienced by practitioners.

The CPRA also consolidates separate regulations pertaining to the discipline of lawyers.

Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, on the other hand, warned lawyers to be cautious in their social media posts that tend to violate the attorney-client privilege under the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR).

Leonen said he and his fellow magistrates have been noticing that there are lawyers who post letters from clients or pleadings to be filed in their social media accounts in Facebook or Twitter.

Leonen reminded lawyers that such posts are prohibited under Canon 21 of the CPR, which requires lawyers to preserve the confidence and secrets of their clients even the attorney-client relationship is terminated.

Rule 21.01 of Canon 21 provides “a lawyer shall not reveal the confidence or secrets of his client” except when authorized by the client, required by law and by judicial action.

Canon 17, on the other hand, states that “a lawyer owes fidelity to the case of his client and he shall be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in him.

“I think many of us have posted on Twitter or in Facebook. That is prohibited because there is attorney-client privilege…Absolutely prohibited by our Canons that a lawyer posts any communication from a client including a text message thanking him, including legal fees” Leonen said.

“We need to preserve the confidentiality between us and our clients because once you post, you are actually opening to third parties your communication and that [could be considered as] actionable,” Leonen explained.

The associate justice said the SC’s tolerance on these social media posts has been “stretched” and that sooner or later disbarment cases might be filed against some lawyers for violation of attorney-client privilege.

Leonen also said lawyers should refrain from airing their commentaries on pending cases before the courts as (a gesture) of respect for the Judiciary.

“I hope others will become aware about the attorney client privilege and the respect of a lawyer and officer of the court to the court that are deciding cases is absolute,” he stressed.

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