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Estevez, Lara Victoria O.


June 8,



Digests of Supreme Court Rulings related to Rule 138-A (Law Student Practice

Ferdinand A. Cruz
Alberto Mina, Hon. Eleuterio F. Guerrero And Hon. Zenaida Laguilles
April 27, 2007
G.R. No. 154207
J. Austria-Martinez
Ferdinand A. Cruz filed before the MeTC a formal Entry of Appearance, as private
prosecutor, in a criminal case for grave threats, where his father, Mariano Cruz, is the
complaining witness. Cruz, describing himself as a third year law student, justifies his
appearance as private prosecutor on the bases of Section 34 of Rule 138 and the ruling
of the Court in Cantimbuhan v. Judge Cruz, Jr. that a non-lawyer may appear before the
inferior courts as an agent or friend of a party litigant. He also said that his appearance
was with the prior conformity of the public prosecutor and a written authority of Mariano
Cruz appointing him to be his agent in the prosecution of the said criminal case.
The MeTC denied Cruz permission to appear as private prosecutor on the ground that
Circular No. 19 governing limited law student practice in conjunction with Rule 138-A
(Law Student Practice Rule) should take precedence over the ruling of the Court laid
down in Cantimbuhan.
Cruz filed before the RTC a Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus with Prayer for
Preliminary Injunction and Temporary Restraining Order against the private respondent
and the MeTC. RTC denied the petition.
MeTC and RTC contend that the Law Student Practice Rule (Rule 138-A) prohibits Cruz, as
a law student, from entering his appearance in behalf of his father in the criminal case
without the supervision of an attorney duly accredited by the law school.
ISSUE:Whether Cruz may appear before the MeTC as an agent or friend of a party
HELD: Yes. Petition granted.
In a Resolution dated June 10, 1997 in Bar Matter No. 730, the Court En Banc clarified
that the application of Rule 138-A is different if the law student appears before an inferior
court, where the issues and procedure are relatively simple. In inferior courts, a law
student may appear in his personal capacity without the supervision of a lawyer. Section
34, Rule 138 provides:

Sec. 34. By whom litigation is conducted. - In the court of a justice of the

peace, a party may conduct his litigation in person, with the aid of an agent
or friend appointed by him for that purpose, or with the aid of an attorney. In
any other court, a party may conduct his litigation personally or by aid of an
attorney, and his appearance must be either personal or by a duly
authorized member of the bar.
Thus, a law student may appear before an inferior court as an agent or friend of a party
without the supervision of a member of the bar.
There is really no problem as to the application of Section 34 of Rule 138 and Rule 138-A.
In the former, the appearance of a non-lawyer, as an agent or friend of a party litigant, is
expressly allowed, while the latter rule provides for conditions when a law student, not as
an agent or a friend of a party litigant, may appear before the courts.
Cruz expressly anchored his appearance on Rule 138 Sec. 34. The court a quo must have
been confused by the fact that petitioner referred to himself as a law student in his entry
of appearance. Rule 138-A should not have been used by the courts a quo in denying
permission to act as private prosecutor against petitioner for the simple reason that Rule
138-A is not the basis for the petitioners appearance.
Ferdinand A. Cruz
Judge Priscilla Mijares (RTC Pasay City), Benjamin Mina, Jr.
September 11, 2008
G.R. No. 154464
J. Nachura
Ferdinand A. Cruz, a fourth year law student, sought permission to enter his appearance
for and on his behalf, before the Pasay RTC as the plaintiff in a case for Abatement of
Nuisance. He anchored his claim on Rule 138 Sec. 34 that a non-lawyer may appear
before any court and conduct his litigation personally.
During the pre-trial, Judge Priscilla Mijares required Cruz to secure a written permission
from the Court Administrator before he could be allowed to appear as counsel for himself.
Cruz failed to submit a written permission and applicable jurisprudence. The trial court
denied his appearance.
In a motion for reconsideration, Cruz reiterated that the basis of his appearance was not
Rule 138-A, but Section 34 of Rule 138. He contended that the two Rules were distinct
and are applicable to different circumstances, but the Judge Mijares denied the same, still
invoking Rule 138-A.
Cruz filed with the SC a Petition for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus, with prayer for
the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction.
ISSUE:Whether the respondent court acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to
lack or excess of jurisdiction when it denied the appearance of the petitioner as party
HELD: YES. Petition partially granted.

A party litigant in a civil case, who insists that he can, without a lawyers assistance,
effectively undertake the successful pursuit of his claim, may be given the chance to do
so. In this case, petitioner alleges that he is a law student and impliedly asserts that he
has the competence to litigate the case himself. Evidently, he is aware of the perils
incident to this decision.
It was subsequently clarified in Bar Matter 730, that by virtue of Section 34, Rule 138, a
law student may appear as an agent or a friend of a party litigant, without need of the
supervision of a lawyer, before inferior courts. Here, we have a law student who, as party
litigant, wishes to represent himself in court. We should grant his wish.
Bar Matter No. 730
In Re: Need That Law Student Practicing Under Rule 138-A Be Actually
Supervised During Trial
June 10, 1997
In a civil case, the plaintiff was represented by Mr. Cornelio Carmona, Jr., an intern at the
UP Office of Legal Aid. Mr. Carmona conducted hearings and completed the presentation
of the plaintiffs evidence-in-chief without the presence of a supervising lawyer, which
was questioned by Justice Barredo.
Presiding Judge Edelwina Pastoral issued an Order requiring Mr. Carmona to be
accompanied by a supervising lawyer on the next hearing. In compliance with said Order,
UP-OLA and the Secretary of Justice executed a Memorandum of Agreement directing
Atty. Catubao and Atty. Legayada of the Public Attorneys Office to supervise Mr. Carmona
during the subsequent hearings.
Justice Barredo asserts that a law student appearing before the trial court under Rule
138-A should be accompanied by a supervising lawyer.
UP-OLA, through its Director, Atty. Alfredo F. Tadiar, submits that the matter of allowing a
law intern to appear unaccompanied by a duly accredited supervising lawyer should be
left to the sound discretion of the court after having made at least one supervised
ISSUE:Whether a law student who appears before the court under the Law Student
Practice Rule should be accompanied by a member of the bar during the trial.
The phrase "direct supervision and control" under Rule 138-A requires no less than the
physical presence of the supervising lawyer during the hearing. This is in accordance
with the threefold rationale behind the Law Student Practice Rule, to wit:
1. to ensure that there will be no miscarriage of justice as a result of incompetence or
inexperience of law students, who, not having as yet passed the test of

professional competence, are presumably not fully equipped to act a counsels on

their own;
2. to provide a mechanism by which the accredited law school clinic may be able to
protect itself from any potential vicarious liability arising from some culpable
action by their law students; and
3. to ensure consistency with the fundamental principle that no person is allowed to
practice a particular profession without possessing the qualifications, particularly a
license, as required by law.
The matter of allowing a law student appear before the court unaccompanied by a
supervising lawyer cannot be left to the discretion of the presiding judge. The rule clearly
states that the appearance of the law student shall be under the direct control and
supervision of a member of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines duly accredited by the
law schools. The rule must be strictly construed because public policy demands that legal
work should be entrusted only to those who possess tested qualifications, are sworn to
observe rules and ethics of the legal profession and subject to judicial disciplinary
Court procedures are often technical and may prove like snares to the ignorant or the
unwary. In the past, our law has allowed non-lawyers to appear for party litigants in
places where duly authorized members of the bar are not available. For relatively simple
litigation before municipal courts, the Rules still allow a more educated or capable person
in behalf of a litigant who cannot get a lawyer. But for the protection of the parties and in
the interest of justice, the requirement for appearances in regional trial courts and higher
courts is more stringent.
The Law Student Practice Rule is only an exception to the rule. Hence, the presiding
judge should see to it that the law student appearing before the court is properly guided
and supervised by a member of the bar.