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Unbecoming a judge

/ 06:08 AM March 17, 2012

This is about the Senate sitting as an impeachment court.

What is obvious is that the rules of law are already being violated by ignoring and overlooking certain basic principles of our judicial system, in particular pertinent codes and canons which should be respected by members of both the legal and judicial profession.

Judicial etiquette requires that those who sit in judgment of others are expected to avoid using language that are “inflammatory, excessively rhetoric or vile.” In order for them to remain dignified members of the court, they should exhibit utmost statesmanship, be “refined in speech; exhibit that temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint; and be considerate, courteous and civil to all persons who come to their courts.”

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In view thereof, I beg leave to cite an administrative case in the annals of the Supreme Court where the above quotes are contained, particularly the case of Administrative Matter No. RTJ-06-2017, June 19, 2008, cited in the website of the Philippine Judicial Academy (Issue 07-08 July 2008 in http://philja.judiciary.gov.ph/alerts/2008/e-lerts_jul2008.htm).

In this particular administrative case, the respondent judge uttered comments such as “shut up,” “that’s baloney” “how dare you say that the court is wrong,” “what kind of a lawyer are you?” and “the problem with you people is you do not use your heads.” The Supreme Court ruled that the conduct was undignified and very unbecoming a judge. Together with his other offense of gross ignorance of the law, the respondent judge was found guilty as charged and, aside from being dismissed from the service, other penalties were meted out on him.

Section 6, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary and Rule 3.04, Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct protect those against whom belittling and denigrating words are hurled, where it states “that judges should be patient and courteous to lawyers especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court.” As the Supreme Court itself has ruled, judges “should avoid the attitude that the litigants are made for the courts instead of the courts for the litigants.”

—ROMEO M. ESCAREAL,

retired justice of the Sandiganbayan,

Makati City

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