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11/20/2018 SUPREME COURT REPORTS ANNOTATED VOLUME 411

VOL. 411, SEPTEMBER 12, 2003 9


Judges Fraternizing with Lawyers and Litigants

ANNOTATION

JUDGES FRATERNIZING WITH LAWYERS AND


LITIGANTS
By *
JORGE C. COQUIA

___________________

§ 1. Introduction, p. 9
§ 2. The Case of Fraternization with a Lawyer, p.
10
§ 3. Avoidance of Impropriety, p. 11
§ 4. The Spirit and Philosophy of Canon 2 of the
Code of Judicial Conduct on Impropriety of
Judges, p. 11
§ 5. Judge Must View Himself as a Priest for the
Administration of Justice, p. 12
§ 6. A Judge Meeting Privately with a Litigant, p.
12
§ 7. An Appellate Justice and Judges Interfering
in Behalf of Litigants, p. 13
§ 8. Accepting Favors From a Litigant, p. 15
§ 9. Giving Professional Advice to Litigants, p. 15
§ 10. Giving Statements and Opinions through the
Media and TV, p. 15
§ 11. Conclusion, p. 16

___________________

§ 1. Introduction

Although the administration of justice is primarily lodged


with judges, the responsibility is shared with lawyers. The
judge expects a lawyer to property perform his role in the
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undertaking in the same manner that the lawyer expects a


judge to do his part. The people expect of them a sense of
shared responsibility which a

_______________

* Member, Board of Editorial Consultants, Supreme Court Reports


Annotated (SCRA).

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Judges Fraternizing with Lawyers and Litigants

crucial factor in the administration of justice. (Lugue vs.


Kayanan, 29 SCRA 165 (1969)
The relations between the judge and the lawyer is
basically one of mutual respect and on a deep appreciation
by one of the duties of the other. It is in this manner that
litigants and the public at large will maintain the trust and
confidence in the judiciary.
The Realist School of Jurisprudence initiated by Oliver
Wendell Holmes, is that the law is what the judge says in
any given case. The personality of the judge is the key
factor in the decision.
Thus the lawyer in his desire to win a case for his client,
aside from citing the pertinent jurisprudence is to know the
judge. He will do all means to give favors to the judge.
He knows that the judge’s hobby is to play mahjong, he
will readily play the game with him. How many lawyers try
to be members of a golf club because many judges and
justices are in that club.

§ 2. The Case of Fraternization with a Lawyer

In Olondriz vs. Judge Alberto L. Lerma, A.M. No. RTJ-


1799, September 12, 2003, the Court found the respondent
judge guilty of light offense and conduct unbecoming a
judge and was reprimanded with a warning that a
repetition of or the same or similar offense shall be dealt
with more severely.
In the said case, complainant who was a party in a case
for nullity of marriage charged the judge for bias and
partiality. The judge was seen with the counsel of the
adverse party eating lunch together.
The respondent judge alleged in his defense that he was
taking lunch with the lawyer on the occasion of a birthday
party celebration of the branch clerk of court.
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After due investigation the office of the Court


Administrator recommended that the respondent judge be
found guilty of light offense for fraternizing with a lawyer
and be penalized with a fine of P1,000.
The Supreme Court said that although taking lunch
with a counsel is not wrong per se. He was reminded of
Canons of Judicial Ethics that a judge as much as possible
should be scrupulously

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careful to avoid any suspicion that his social or business or


friendly relationship is an element in this judicial course.

§ 3. Avoidance of Impropriety

Canon 2 of Code of Judicial Conduct reads: “A judge should


avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all
activities.” Rule 2.01 states that a judge should behave at
all times to preserve public confidence in the integrity and
impartiality of the judiciary.
In Yu vs. Judge Leonda, 349 SCRA 58 (2001), the
respondent judge who was trying an election protest case
was found guilty of serious misconduct, partiality and
inexcusable negligence. It appeared that said judge was
making arrangement with the protestant for the payment
of his services in drafting the decision and for secretarial
services. In one of the sessions the respondent judge
shouted at a counsel.
The Supreme Court in sustaining the findings and
recommendation of the Associate Justice of the Court of
Appeals said that the people’s confidence in the judicial
system is found not only on the magnitude of legal
knowledge and the diligence of the member of the bench,
but also on the highest standard of integrity and moral
uprightness they are expected to possess. (Dawa vs. De
Asa, 292 SCRA 703 [1998])

§ 4. The Spirit and Philosophy of Canon 2 on


Impropriety of Judges

In Castillo vs. Calanog, Jr., 199 SCRA 75 (1991), the


Supreme Court said that the Code of Judicial Ethics
mandates that the conduct of a judge must be free of a
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whiff of impropriety not only with respect to his


performance of his official duties, but also to his behavior
outside his sala and as a private individual. There is no
dichotomy of morality. A public official is also judged by his
private morality being the subject or constant public
scrutiny. A judge should freely and willingly accept
restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as
burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

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§ 5. Judge Must View Himself as a Priest for the


Administration of Justice

In election cases where people are emotionally affected


with purely partisan motives the judge must not only be
impartial but also appear to be impartial.
In Sangguniang Bayan of Taguig, Metro Manila vs.
Estrella, 349 SCRA 46 (2001), the trial judge who was
trying an election protest was found guilty of serious
misconduct, partiality and inexcusable negligence and was
ordered to pay a fine of P20,000. The respondent judge was
found to have given unwarranted favors to one of the
parties.
In his report the court administrator found the
respondent judge gravely abused his discretion in deciding
the case and issuing orders clearly partial in favor or one of
the parties.
The Supreme Court said that a judge should always be
imbued with the high sense of duty and responsibility. He
must view himself as a priest for the administration of
justice akin to a religious crusade thus, exerting the same
devotion of the most sacred ceremonious or religious
liturgy. The judge must render service with impartiality
commensurate with public trust reposed on him.
(Dimatulac vs. Villon, 297 SCRA 679 (1998).

§ 6. A Judge Meeting Privately with a Litigant

An RTC judge was dismissed from the service with


forfeiture of all retirement benefits and privileges for gross
ignorance of the law and manifest partiality. In De
Guzman, Jr. vs. Judge Sison, 355 SCRA 69 (2001), the
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respondent judge was seen meeting with a litigant in a


resort and later was with him waving to the public while
his judgment in favor of said litigant was being
implemented. The Court said that it was improper for a
judge to meet privately with the accused without the
presence of the complainant seriously undermines the
people’s faith and confidence in the judiciary.
Case law repeatedly teaches that judicial office
circumscribes the personal conduct of a judge and imposes
a number of restrictions thereon which he must pay for
occupying an exalted position in the administration of
justice. A judicial office traces a line around his official as
well as personal conduct beyond which he

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may not freely venture. He must conduct himself in a name


that gives no ground for reproach. The irresponsible or
improper conduct of a judge erodes public confidence in the
judiciary. It is thus the duty of all members of the bench to
avoid any impression or impropriety to protect the image of
the judiciary. This reminder applies all the more sternly to
municipal metropolitan and regional trial court judges like
herein respondent because they are the intermediaries
between conflicting interests and the embodiment of the
people’s sense of justice. Thus, judicial conduct should
remain free from any appearance or impropriety and
should be beyond reproach.

§ 7. An Appellate Justice and Judges Interfering in


Behalf of Litigants

For the first time in the history of the Philippine judiciary,


a justice of the Court of Appeals was dismissed from the
service for interceding in behalf of defendants in a criminal
case.
In In re Derogatory News Items Charging Court of
Appeals Associate Justice Demetrio Demetria with
Interference in Behalf of Suspected Drug Queen, A.M. No.
00-7-09-CA, March 27, 2001, 355 SCRA 366, Associate
Justice of the Court of Appeals Demetrio Demetria was
found guilty of violating Rule 2.04 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct by interference in behalf of suspect in a drug case.

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Sometime in July 2000, most major newspapers


collectively reported that the respondent Court of Appeals
justice tried to intercede in behalf of a suspected Chinese
drug queen who went in and out of prison to play in a
Manila casino.
After due investigation it was established that the
respondent went to the Department of Justice and
approached the special prosecutor in-charge to do
something to help Go Teng Kok about the case. The
respondent admitted having gone to the Department of
Justice to visit old friends and it was only coincidental that
he met the suspected drug queen in the building.
The Supreme Court held that it was enough that the
respondent is a close friend of the lawyer or the drug
suspect who has been helping the accused, and that he
wields influence as a former DOJ Undersecretary, and
later, acting secretary, and a justice of the Court of
Appeals.

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The Court concluded that through his indiscretion Justice


Demetria did not only make a mockery of his high office,
but also caused incalculable damage to the entire judiciary.
Another case of intervention in behalf of defendants is
Requierme, Jr. vs. Yuipco, 346 SCRA 25 (2000). In said case
the respondent judge called the counsels for the plaintiff
and third defendants to her chamber and requested them
not to oppose the motion to lift. Canon 5, Rule 3.06 provides
that while a judge may, to promote justice waste of time or
clear and obscurity, properly intervene in presentation of
evidence during trial, it should be borne in mind that
undue influence may prevent presentation of the cause or
the ascertainment of the truth.
The Court said that in intervening on behalf of the
defendants, respondent judge failed to live to the mandate
that a judge should not only be impartial but must also
appear impartial. A judge must behave at all times as to
promote public confidence to the integrity and impartiality
of the judiciary. It should always be borne in mind that
undue interference may prevent the proper presentation of
the cause or the ascertainment of truth.
In Velez vs. Flores, 397 SCRA 92 (2003) a Metropolitan
Trial Court Judge was ordered dismissed from the service
with forfeiture of all retirement benefits. The respondent’s
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act of brokering for a fee, a settlement in a collection case


was an act of bribery. It is a serious offense under Rule 140
of the Rules of Court. Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial
Conduct requires that a judge should avoid impropriety
and appearance or impropriety in all activities (Dumo vs.
Perez, 322 SCRA 545 (2000).
Under Rule 2.04 of the same Code, judges must refrain
from influencing in any manner the outcome of litigation or
dispute pending before another court or administrative
agency. It is significant to stress that they are held to
higher standards of integrity and ethical conduct than
other persons not vested with public trust and confidence.
They should bring honor to the judiciary. The influence
peddling or intercession in a case by the respondent judge
was reprehensible. He placed the judiciary as a whole in a
bad light. His corrupt practices clearly show his unfitness
to remain in his judicial robes.
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§ 8. Accepting Favors From a Litigant

In Agpalasin vs. Agcaoili, 330 SCRA 250 (2000), the


Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of an RTC judge for
gross misconduct.
An investigation established that the respondent judge
allowed an accused for robbery pending in his sala to
transport and pay for freight charges of nipa shingles he
ordered which was a blatant violation of Rule 5.04, Canon 5
or the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting judges from
accepting a gift bequest favor or loan from anyone except as
may be allowed by law. The respondent judge thereby
degraded the administration of justice, mockery the dignity
of his office, and cast doubt on the independence and
integrity of the entire judiciary.
It appeared that the judge later acquitted the accused
which gave rise to suspicion that the judge was influenced
by the favors other than the evidence on the record.
In Fineza vs. Aruelo, 371 SCRA 8 (2001), an RTC judge
was reprimanded and imposed a fine of P5,000 for his
active involvement. Although there was no clear evidence
that he received money in exchange of the dismissal of a
criminal case, the so called “help” he extended allegedly

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extended to an acquaintance who is not even a party to the


criminal case, is in fact, more of an undue interference,
which is way beyond his duties as a court employee.
Although there is nothing inherently wrong in extending
such assistance, still, respondent should have been more
circumspect in doing so considering the fact that as an
employee of the judiciary, or appearance thereof in the
performance of his functions.

§ 9. Giving Professional Advice to Litigants

In Gozun vs. Liangco, 339 SCRA 253 (2000), the Court


ordered the dismissal of a municipal court for gross
ignorance of the law and engaging private practice of law
and giving professional advice to clients. The Court said
that unlike lawyers, judges cannot render legal advice.
Judges are expressly prohibited from engaging in the
practice of law or from giving professional advice to clients.

§ 10. Giving Statements and Opinions to the Media


and TV

In the Matter of the Alleged Improper Conduct of


Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Anacleto Badoy, Jr.,
A.M. No. 01-12-01-SC,
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January 16, 2003, 395 SCRA 231 (2003), Justice Anacleto


Badoy, Jr. was imposed a fine of P13,000 for conduct
unbecoming a justice and for delay in issuing an order.
Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro of the same court
was admonished to be more tolerant of counsel’s demeanor
which do not detract from the dignity and solemnity of the
court proceedings.
The case involved the trial of former President Joseph
Estrada for plunder wherein the respondent Associate
Justice Anacleto Badoy was the division chairman.
During the pendency of the case the respondent was
confined in the hospital alleged that he could not find his
Resolution ordering former President Estrada to be
detained at Fort Santo Domingo. Agitated that someone
might have stolen the Resolution, he ordered the National
Bureau of Investigation to conduct an investigation. At the
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same time he went to the GMA TV broadcast station riding


in an ambulance and announced the loss of the said
resolution.
The Supreme Court found Justice Badoy guilty of
conduct unbecoming a justice for going to GMA 7 Broadcast
aboard an ambulance and reporting the loss of a Resolution
considered as classified. Likewise, Justice Badoy, Jr. and
Justice de Castro failed to exhibit judicial temperament.
Such conduct deserves admonition.

§ 11. Conclusion

THE EFFECT OF THE REALIST SCHOOL OF


JURISPRUDENCE:
The Realist School of Jurisprudence initiated by U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes that the law
is what the judge says in a case and “nothing more
pretentious.” The juridical personality is the key factor in
deciding a case which is the law.
Elaborating on Holmes’ Concept of Law, Jerome Frank
said that law is defined not as a set of logical propositions
but in the terms of official action. Law is what courts (and
other officials do and not what they say and until the court
has passed on the facts of a case,

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there is no law on the subject matter in existence. The


opinion1 of lawyer is only a guess as to what the courts will
decide.
Thus, any factor or force that will influence the judge in
reaching a decision in a case, whether by corruption or
fraud, is a fit subject of jurisprudence. This realistic
approach to law is what is happening in courts today in the
Philippines.

——o0o——

_______________

1 Jerome Frank, Law and the Modern Mind, N.Y., Brentano’s, Inc.
1949.

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