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

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About Magz

First of all, I am not a lawyer. I'm a graduate of AB Political Science and went to the College of Law but stopped going to law school for some reasons. I'm a passionate teacher who has been teaching English to speakers of other languages and a person who likes writing and blogging. I lost some important files and software when my computer broke down so the reason I created this website is to preserve the notes, reviewers and digests I collected when I was at the law school and at the same time, I want to help out law students who do not have enough time to go and read books in the library.

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