Monthly Archives: September 2014

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Imposition of Proper Penalty

Felicidad Dadizon vs. Judge Aniceto Lirios

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1295. August 1, 2000

 

 

Facts: Felicidad Dadizon was the complainant in a prosecution for Falsification of a Public Document (Art. 172, RPC) which was tried and decided by Judge Aniceto Lirios of the MTC of Naval, Biliran. Judge Lirios convicted the accused, Pablo Suzon, and sentenced him to a straight penalty of 7 months imprisonment and imposed a PhP 1,000 fine. Dadizon questioned the punishment meted by the said judge, alleging that the straight penalty of 7 months is way below the penalty provided by law. Judge Lirios defended his decision, stating that he had to appreciate the mitigating circumstance that Suzon was already 70 years of age.

 

 

Held: GUILTY. As judge of thirty-three (33) years, respondent should have known that the Indeterminate Sentence Law provides for the imposition of a prison sentence in the minimum and maximum term for offenses punishable by the Revised Penal Code or the special laws. The offense committed was Falsification by a Private Individual and Use of Falsified Document punishable under Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code which provides for a penalty of imprisonment of prision correccional in its medium and maximum periods (ranging from 2 years, 4 months and 1 days to 6 years) and a fine of not more than Five Thousand Pesos (P5,000.00). Respondent Judge appreciated one (1) mitigating circumstance (old age), which is merely an ordinary mitigating circumstance. The imposition of a straight penalty of seven (7) months by respondent Judge is clearly erroneous. While a judge may not always be subjected to disciplinary action for every erroneous order or decision he renders, that relative immunity is not a license to be negligent or abusive and arbitrary in performing his adjudicatory prerogatives. It is true that a judge may err in fixing the minimum and maximum terms of an indeterminate sentence. However, the unawareness of or unfamiliarity with the application of the Indeterminate Sentence Law and duration and graduation of penalties merit disciplinary action from reprimand to removal. Every judge should know that in applying the Indeterminate Sentence Law for offenses penalized under the Revised Penal Code, the indeterminate sentence should have a fixed minimum and maximum. And when the law is so elementary, not to know it or to act as if one does not know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Judge Aniceto Lirios was fined in the amount of PhP 5,000 and issued stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar act will be dealt with more severely by the Court.

 

Source:  Ateneo

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Legal Ethics Case Digests – Grant of a Motion for Reconsideration

Gloria Lucas v. Judge Amelia A. Fabros

A.M. No. MTJ-99-1226. January 31, 2000

 

Facts :  Complainant Lucas was the defendant in an ejectment case pending before respondent judge. She alleges that Judge Fabros granted the plaintiff’s motion for reconsideration after the case had been dismissed the case for failure of plaintiff and her counsel to appear at the Preliminary Conference. She averred that it is elementary, under Section 19(c) of the Rules of Summary Procedure, that a motion for reconsideration is prohibited, but respondent judge, in violation of the rule, granted the motion for reconsideration. She added that, notwithstanding the fact that the respondent herself had pointed out in open court that the case is governed by the Rules on Summary Procedure, the judge ordered the revival of the case out of malice, partiality and with intent to cause an injury to complainant. Thus, the instant complaint, charging respondent judge with Gross Ignorance of the Law and Grave Abuse of Discretion

 

Held: NOT GUILTY.  The SC held that respondent judge not guilty of gross ignorance of the law and grave abuse of discretion.

            As a rule, a motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading under Section 19 of the Revised Rule on Summary Procedure. This rule, however, applies only where the judgment sought to be reconsidered is one rendered on the merits. Here, the order of dismissal issued by respondent judge due to failure of a party to appear during the preliminary conference is obviously not a judgment on the merits after trial of the case. Hence, a motion for the reconsideration of such order is not the prohibited pleading contemplated under Section 19 (c) of the present Rule on Summary Procedure. Thus, respondent judge committed no grave abuse of discretion, nor is she guilty of ignorance of the law, in giving due course to the motion for reconsideration subject of the present

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Issuance of an Order of Release

Jesusa Santiago vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos

Margarita Sanchez vs. Judge Eduardo Jovellanos

A.M. No. MTJ-00-1289. August 1, 2000

 

Facts: Jesusa Santiago and Margarita Sanchez were complainants in two different criminal cases before the MTC of San Ildefonso, Bulacan and the RTC of Rosales, Pampanga, respectively. The suspects in each of the criminal cases were caught by authorities and detained. However, both suspects were released by order of Judge Eduardo Jovellanos, presiding judge of the MCTC of Alcala-Bautista, Pangasinan. The complainants questioned both Orders for Release issued by Judge Jovellanos, alleging that the requirements for the bailbond had not been fulfilled and that the said judge had no jurisdiction to order the release.

 

Held: GUILTY. There are two defects in the Orders for Release signed by Judge Jovellanos. First, in both cases, the detainees had not registered the bailbond in accordance with the Rules of Criminal Procedure. One may not be given provisional liberty if the bailbond is not registered with the proper office. Secondly, Judge Jovellanos did not have jurisdiction to order the release of the detainees. The Rules of Criminal Procedure provide that when a suspect is arrested outside of the province, city or municipality where his case is pending, he may either apply for bail with the court where his case is pending or with any RTC in the province, city or municipality where he was arrested. If a RTC judge is not available, he may apply for bail with any MTC or MCTC in the place where he was arrested. In this case, Judge Jovellanos entertained motions for bail and ordered release for suspects whose cases were not pending in his court nor were they arrested within his jurisdiction. As an advocate of justice and a visible representation of the law, a judge is expected to keep abreast with and be proficient in the interpretation of our laws. A judge should be acquainted with legal norms and precepts as well as with statutes and procedural rules. Unfamiliarity with the Rules of Court is a sign of incompetence which goes against Canon 3, specifically Rule 3.01, of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Having accepted the exalted position of a judge, Judge Jovellanos owes the public and the court he sits in proficiency in the law. He must have the basic rules at the palm of his hands as he is expected to maintain professional competence at all times. Judge Jovellanos was suspended for 1 year without pay issued the warning that similar conduct in the future shall be dealt with more severely.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Granting of Bail

Romulo Tolentino v. Judge Policarpio S. Camano, Jr.

A.M. RTJ-00-1522 January 20, 2000

 

Facts: Respondent Judge is being charged with gross ignorance of the law, grave abuse of discretion, grave abuse of authority, violation of Canons 1, 2, and 3 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics and incompetence in connection with granting bail to the accused in a criminal case for child abuse.

The complaint alleges that respondent Judge granted bail while pending the holding of a preliminary investigation. The defense moved to quash the information against the accused on the alleged absence of a preliminary investigation. Consequently, respondent Judge ordered that a preliminary investigation be had by the state prosecutor. During the pendency of this, he granted bail in favor of the defendant after several notices of hearing to the state prosecutor to which the latter failed to appear. After such grant, complainant herein now accuses respondent of denying the prosecution the chance to adduce evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong and that bail should not have been granted in his favor.

 

Held: NOT GUILTY. There was no denial of due process. It was not necessary to hold hearing so that the prosecution could show that evidence of guilt of the accused was strong since a preliminary investigation had been ordered by the court. At that point, bail was still a matter of right. Respondent judge, knowing that bail was indeed a matter of right at that stage, nevertheless set the hearing for the petition for bail four times. However, complainant failed to appear and present evidence to show that the guilt of the accused was strong. It thus appears that complainant is actually the one who was remiss in the performance of his duties. Considering that the case was referred to the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor for preliminary investigation, the accused could be considered as entitled to bail as a matter of right. Thus, respondent judge’s decision granting bail to the accused was proper and in accordance with law and jurisprudence.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Payment of Docket Fees in Election Cases

Alfredo B. Enojas v. Judge Eustaquio Z. Gacott, Jr.

A.M. No. RTJ-99-1513. January 19, 2000

 

Facts: Judge Gacott is being administratively charged in this case with serious misconduct, inefficiency and gross ignorance of the law. This complaint arose when respondent Judge dismissed an election case on the ground of non-payment of docket fees, although the case was had been previously admitted and was deemed properly filed by the original Judge (inhibited himself due to relationship to one’s of the parties) whom Judge Gacott replaced. Jugde G issued the dismissal order relying on a case (Manchester vs. CA) which states that – a case is deemed commenced only upon the payment of the proper docket fees. To his opinion, the required fees in this case was not yet paid by the protestant. Hence, this complaint charging him primarily with gross ignorance of the law.

 

Held: GUILTY. Based on the facts and circumstances attendant to the case, the election protest was properly filed. In fact, the original Judge already made an order that from the deposit given by the protestant for the expenses of reopening the questioned ballots, an amount shall be allocated for the payment of the required fees. More importantly, the Court held that the Manchester ruling relied upon by respondent Judge does not apply to election cases. In a latter case ( Pahilan), the evil sought to be avoided in the Manchester case does not exist in election cases. Truth is, the filing fee in an election case is fixed and the claim for damages, to which the docket fees shall be made to apply, is merely ancillary to main cause of action and is not even determinative of the court’s jurisdiction.

While it is true that not every error or mistake of a judge renders him administratively liable, in this case, it is clear that the respondent judge was in utter disregard of established rules amounting to gross ignorance of the law. The Pahilan case was decided long before the respondent made a ruling on the election case. Thus, the respondent judge was duty bound to adhere to, and apply the recent ruling, and he cannot feign ignorance thereof, because the Code of Judicial Ethics requires him to be an embodiment of, among other things, judicial competence. On e of the principal duties of a judge is to be abreast with law and jurisprudence since the administration of justice requires continuous study of the law and jurisprudence. A perusal of the challenge order reveals that respondent judge failed to live up to what is expected of him as a dispenser of justice.

 

Source:  Ateneo

Legal Ethics Case Digests – Improper Imposition of the Punishment of Contempt

Flaviano B. Cortes v. Judge Felina Bangalan

A.M. No. MTJ-97-1129. January 19, 2000

 

Facts: Complainant was one of the co-accused in an adultery case filed before the sala of respondent Judge Bangalan. In a letter-complaint, he moved for the voluntary inhibition of respondent judge on the ground that the latter cannot be impartial over the criminal case because complainant previously filed an opposition to the appointment of respondent as RTC judge.

For this, respondent judge issued an order citing Complainant in direct contempt of court, averring further that his pleading contained derogatory, offensive or malicious statements “equivalent to misbehavior committed in the presence of or so near a court or judge as to interrupt the proceedings before the same within the meaning of Rule 71. When complainant appealed said order in the same court, after posting a notice of appeal, respondent judge ordered him to submit a record on appeal. Upon failure to do so, respondent judge issued a warrant of arrest against Complainant for which he was arrested and jailed for 1 day with a fine of P10.00.

Thus, Complainant charges respondent judge with gross ignorance of the law, oppressive conduct and abuse of authority when the latter held him in contempt of court on account of the statements he made in his letter-complaint which statements, complainant insists, are absolutely privileged in nature. Complainant further alleges that he filed a notice of appeal from the order of contempt but respondent directed him to submit a record on appeal despite the fact that the same is not required under the rules.

 

Held: GUILTY. Judge B was fined in the amount equivalent to 1-month salary with a stern warning that a repetition of the same shall be dealt with more seriously. The Court said that while it is true that the complainant attached the administrative letter-complaint in his letter for respondent judge to inhibit in the criminal case, it was used merely to support his contention in his motion for inhibition. A judge is bound never to consider lightly a motion for his inhibition that questions or puts to doubt, however insignificant, his supposed predilection to a case pending before him. Furthermore, the alleged offensive and contemptuous language contained in the letter-complaint was not directed to the respondent court.

A judge may not hold a party in contempt of court for expressing concern on his impartiality even if the judge may have been insulted therein. While the power to punish in contempt is inherent in all courts so as to preserve order in judicial proceedings and to uphold the due administration of justice, judges, however, should exercise their contempt powers judiciously and sparingly, with utmost restraint, and with the end in view of utilizing their contempt powers for correction and preservation not for retaliation or vindication.

Anent the charge of gross ignorance of the law in requiring complainant to submit a record on appeal, we find the respondent judge’s order to be not it accord with the established rule on the matter. Contempt proceedings is not one of those instances where a record on appeal is required to perfect an appeal. Thus, when the law is elementary, so elementary, not to know it constitutes gross ignorance of the law.

 

Source:  Ateneo