Jurisprudence in Legal and Judicial Ethics

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JURISPRUDENCE IN LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICS

JURISPRUDENCE IN LEGAL AND JUDICIAL ETHICSLawyersPRACTICE OF LAW; Practice of law embraces any activity, in or out of court, which requires the application of law, as well as legal principles, practice or procedure and calls for legal knowledge, training and experience. One is entitled to practice law if he has been duly admitted to the bar and there maintains a good standing. Acts constituting practice of law appearances in court as counsel and preparation and filing of pleadings in court.J.K. Mercado and Sons Agri. Enterprises v. Atty. De Vera, Admin Case 3066, Dec. 3, 2001.

Same; The practice of law is a profession and not a business; Lawyering is not primarily meant to be a money-making venture, and law advocacy is not a capital that necessarily yields profits. The gaining of a livelihood is not a professional but a secondary consideration. Duty to public service and to the administration of justice should be the primary consideration of lawyers, who must subordinate their personal interests or what they owe to themselves. The practice of law is a noble calling in w/c emolument is a byproduct, and the highest eminence may be attained w/o making much money.Burbe v. Atty. Magulta, AC No. 99-634, June 10, 2002.

Same; After agreeing to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer owes fidelity to both cause and client, even if the client never paid any fee for the attorney-client relationship. Lawyering is not a business; it is a profession in w/c duty to public service, not money, is the primary consideration. Burbe v. Atty. Magulta, AC No. 99-634, June 10, 2002.

THE LAWYER AND SOCIETY; Morality Issue: All circumstances taken together indicate that respondent was imprudent in managing her personal affairs. However, her relationship, clothed as it was w/ what respondent believed was a valid marriage, cannot be considered immoral. Immorality connotes conduct that shows indifference to the moral norms of society and the opinion of good and respectable members of the community. To warrant disciplinary action, such conduct must be GROSSLY IMMORAL, that is, it must be corrupt and false as to constitute criminal act or so unprincipled as to be reprehensible to a high degree.Ui v. Atty. Bonifacio, Adm. Case No. 3319, June 8, 2000.

Same; Not in Good Faith; Respondent did not exercise the good faith required of a lawyer in handling the legal affairs of his client. It is evident from the records that he tried to coerce the complainant to comply w/ his letter-demand by threatening to file various charges against the latter. When the complainant did not heed his warning, he made good his threat and filed a string of criminal and administrative cases against the complainant. Respondents action is malicious as the cases he instituted against the complainant di not have any bearing or connection to the cause of his client. Clearly, the respondent violated the proscription in Canon 19, 9.01 of the Code of Professional Responsibility.Ong v. Atty. Unto, Adin Case No. 2417, Feb. 6, 2002.

Same; Violation of Oath; In the case at bar, respondent violated his solemn oath as a lawyer not to engage in unlawful, dishonest or deceitful conduct. He maintained that the signature of the donor was genuine despite the finding of experts to the contrary. He also tried to make a mockery of the legal profession by advancing the flimsy excuse that, as a notary public, his failure to submit a copy of the document to the Clerk of Court was his secretarys fault. There is also a showing that respondent harassed the occupants of the property subject of the donation. He asked MERALCO to disconnect its services to the property, threatening law suits if his demands were not heeded. He also posted security guards to intimidate the occupants of the property. Clearly, respondents acts caused dishonor to the legal profession. A notary public who acknowledged a document that was a forgery destroys the integrity and dignity of the legal profession. He does not deserve to continue as a member of the bar.Alitagtag v. Atty. Garcia, Admin Case No. 4738, Feb. 6, 2002.

THE LAWYER AND CLIENT; Professional Engagement; If a person, in respect to his business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults an attorney in his professional capacity w/ the view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces in such consultation, then the professional engagement must be regarded as established. It is not essential that the client should have employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion or that any retainer should have been paid, promised, or charged; neither is it material that the attorney consulted, did not afterward undertake the case about w/c the consultation was had.Junio v. Atty. Grupo, Adinm Case 5020, Dec. 18, 2001.

Same; Lawyer-Client Relationship; Lawyer-client relationship exists notwithstanding the close personal relationship between the lawyer and the complainant or the nonpayment of the former's fees. Hence, despite the fact that complainant was kumpadre of a law partner of respondent, and that respondent dispensed legal advice to complainant as a personal favor to the kumpadre, the lawyer was duty-bound to file the complaint he had agreed to prepare and had actually prepared at the soonest possible time, in order to protect the client's interest. Rule 18.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility provides that lawyers should not neglect legal matters entrusted to them.Burbe v. Atty. Magulta, AC No. 99-634, June 10, 2002.

Same; Same; Once lawyers agree to take up the cause of a client, they owe fidelity to such cause and must always be mindful of the trust and confidence reposed in them. They owe entire devotion to the interest of the client, warm zeal in the maintenance and the defense of the client's rights, and the exertion of their utmost learning and abilities to the end that nothing be taken or withheld from the client, save by the rules of law legally applied.Tan v. Lapak, 350 SCRA 74, Jan. 23, 2001.

Same; Same; After agreeing to take up the cause of a client, a lawyer fidelity to both cause and client, even if the client never paid any fee for the attorney-client relationship. A lawyer-client relationship was established from the very first moment complainant asked respondent for legal advice regarding the formers business. To constitute professional employment, it is not essential that the client employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion. It is not necessary that any retainer be paid, promised, or charged; neither is it material that the attorney consulted did not afterward handle the case for w/c his service had been sought. Likewise, a lawyer-client relationship exists notwithstanding the close personal relationship between the lawyer and the complainant or the nonpayment of the formers fees.Burbe v. Atty. Magulta, AC No. 99-634, June 10, 2002.

Same; Same; The absence of a written contract does not preclude a finding that there was a professional relationship w/c merits attorney's fees for professional services rendered. A written contract is not an essential element in the employment of an attorney; the contract may be express or implied. To establish the relation, it is sufficient that the advice and assistance of an attorney is sought and received in any matter pertinent to his profession. To constitute professional employment, it is not essential that the client should have employed the attorney professionally on any previous occasion. . . It is not necessary that any retainer should have been paid, promised, or charged for neither is it material that the attorney consulted did not afterward undertake the case about w/c the consultation was had. If a person, in respect to his business affairs or troubles of any kind, consults w/ his attorney in his professional capacity w/ the view to obtaining professional advice or assistance, and the attorney voluntarily permits or acquiesces in such consultation, then the professional employment must be regarded as established.Sps. Rabanal v. Atty. Tugade, AC No. 1372, June 27, 2002.

Same; Effective Representation; A client is entitled to an effective representation. A lawyer should recognize his lack of competence or incapacity to handle a particular task and the disservice he would do his client if he undertakes or continues to undertake the task entrusted to him. If that situation occurs, he should either decline to act or obtain his clients instruction to retain, consult or collaborate w/ another lawyer to avoid any event detrimental to his clients cause.Heirs of Cristobal v. CA, GR 135959, May 11, 2000.

Same; Act of Counsel is act of Client; Clients should suffer the consequences of the negligence, mistake or lack of competence of the counsel whom they themselves hired and had the full authority to fire at any time and replace w/ another even w/o any justifiable reason.Salva v. Court of Appeals, 304 SCRA 632 (1999).

Same; Same; Litigants represented by counsel, should not expect that all they need to do is sit back, relax and await the outcome of their case. Bernardo v. Court of Appeals, 275 SCRA 413 (1997).

Same; Same; Exception; Where the negligence of counsel is one that is so gross, palpable, pervasive and reckless w/c is the type of negligence that deprives a party of his or her day in court. In effect does not bind the client.Producers Bank v. CA, 126620, April 17, 2002.

Same; Simple Negligence; Counsels negligence in filing a defective notice of appeal and defective motions for reconsideration and in not elevating nor advising herein petitioner to elevate adverse orders to the higher court for review is undisputed, but it cannot be said that there was sheer absence of real effort on his part to defend his clients cause amounting to gross negligence.Gacutan-Fraile v. Domingo, GR 138518, Dec. 15, 2000.

Same; Neglect of Duty; Neglect of legal matter entrusted to counsel. Deceiving his client that he had already filed the petition in the annulment case when in fact, the petition was only filed on a later date. For his neglect in handling the case, he promised to return half of the amount that was paid to him but he never did. Such misconduct clearly betrays the confidence reposed in him by his client.Reyes v. Javier, Admin Case No. 5574, Feb. 1, 2002.

Same; Duty to Account Promptly; Lawyers must promptly account for money or property they receive on behalf of their clients. Failure to do so constitutes professional misconduct and justifies the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.Judge Angeles v. Atty. Uy, Adm. Case No. 5019, April 6, 2000.

Same; Same; The highly fiduciary relation of attorney and client requires that respondent lawyer should promptly account for the funds w/c he received and help for the benefit of his client. The client has the right to know how the funds were used or disbursed by his counsel.Cunanan v. Atty. Rimorin, Ad,in Case No. CBD-98*518, Aug. 23, 2000; Basa v. Atty. Icawat, Admin Case No. 4282, Aug. 24, 2000.

Same; Same; The lawyers right to be paid for his legal services cannot be exercised whimsically by appropriating for himself the money intended for his clients.Rivera v. Atty. Angeles, Admin Case No. 2519, Aug. 29, 2000.

Same; Dereliction of Duty; Respondents failure to submit the brief to the appellate court w/in the reglementary period is not only a dereliction of duty to his client but also to the court as well.Torres v. Atty. Orden, Adm. Case No. 4646, April 6, 2000.

Same; Neglect of Duty; Failure to submit the reqd brief w/in the reglementary period.In Re: Atty. Briones, Admin Case 5486, Aug. 15, 2001.

Same; Same; Failure to file criminal complaint.Cario v. De los Reyes, Admin Case 4982, Aug. 9, 2001.

Same; Malpractice and Gross Misconduct: A lawyer shall not borrow money from his client unless the clients interests are fully protected by the nature of the case or by independent advice.Junio v. Atty. Grupo, supra.

Same; Misconduct; The lawyer actively solicited the letter of reconsideration from complainant and later on used said letter against the interest of complainant to support the lawyers motion to dismiss the civil case revealing lack of candor and fairness in said lawyers dealings.Osop v. Atty. Fontanilla, Adimin Case 5043, Sept. 19, 2001.

Same; Extortion; Lawyer who arrogate unto himself the mantle of a Justice of the Supreme Court for the purpose of extorting money from a party-litigant commits ultimate betrayal of his duty w/c cannot and should never be countenanced.Igoy v. Soriano, A.M. No. 2001-SC, Oct. 11, 2001.

Same; Attorneys Fees; Two concepts of attorneys fees: (1) In the ordinary sense, it represents the reasonable compensation paid to a lawyer by his client for the legal services he has rendered; (2) In its extraordinary concept, attorneys fees may be awarded by the court as indemnity for damages to be paid by the losing party to the prevailing party. In the ordinary concept, the amount of Attys. fees due is that stipulated in the retainer agreement w/c is conclusive as to the amount thereof. In the absence of such agreement, the amount of Attys. fees is fixed on the basis of quantum meruit, i.e. the reasonable worth of his services. In determining the amount of Attys. fees, the ff. factors are considered: (1) the time spent and extent of services rendered; (2) the novelty and difficulty of the questions involved; (3) the importance of the subject matter; (4) the skill demanded; (5) the probability of losing other employment as a result of the acceptance of the proffered case; (6) the amount involved in the controversy and the benefits resulting to the client; (7) the certainty of compensation; (8) the character of employment; and (9) the professional standing of the lawyer.Compania Maritima v. CA, GR 128452, Nov. 16, 1999.

Same; Attorneys Lien; A lawyer is entitled to a lien over the funds, documents and papers of his client w/c have lawfully come into his possession. Under Canon 16.03 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, he may apply so much thereof as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees and disbursements, giving notice promptly thereafter to his client. In both case, however, it is to be assumed that the client agrees w/ the lawyer in the amount of Attys. fees. In case of disagreement on the amount claimed by the lawyer, the lawyer should not arbitrarily apply the funds in his possession to the payment of his fees; instead, it should behoove the lawyer to file, if he still deems it desirable, the necessary action or the proper motion w/ the proper court to fix the amount of his Attys. fees.J.K. Mercado and Sons v. De Vera, Adm. Case No. 3066, Oct. 26, 1999.

Same; Conflict of Interest; When a lawyer agrees to represent the defendant and later on, also the plaintiff in the same case, he can no longer serve either of his said clients faithfully, as his duty to the plaintiff necessarily conflicts his duty to the defendant.Sibulo v. Atty. Cabrera, ASM Case No. 4218, July 20, 2000.

THE LAWYER AND THE COURTS; Respectful Attitude; Lawyers may not be held to too strict an account for words said in heat of the moment, because of chagrin at losing cases, and that the big way is for the court to condone even contemptuous language. While judges must exercise patience, lawyers must also observe temperate language as well. A lawyer is an officer of the Court, bound by the law. It is a lawyers sworn and moral duty to help build and not destroy unnecessarily the high esteem and regard towards the courts so essential to the proper administration of justice. It is the duty of the lawyer to maintain towards the courts a respectful attitude, not for the sake of the temporary incumbent of the judicial office, but for the maintenance of its supreme importance. It is peculiarly incumbent for lawyers to support the courts against unjust criticism and clamor.Soriano v. CA, GR 100633, Aug. 28, 2001.

Same; Willful Disobedience to lawful Orders; The lawyers failure to submit proof of service of appellants brief to the SOLGEN and his failure to submit the reqd. comment manifest willful disobedience to the lawful orders of the SC, a clear violation of the canons of professional ethics.In Re: Vicente Y. Bayani, Admin Case No. 5307, Aug. 9, 2000.

Same; Improper Conduct; Respondent has achieved a remarkable feat of character assassination. His verbal darts, albeit entertaining in a fleeting way, are cast w/ little regard for truth. He does nothing more than to obscure the issues, and his reliance on the fools gold of gossip betrays only a shocking absence of discernment.Yared v. Hon. Ilarde, GR 1147732, Aug. 1, 2000.

Same; Substitution of Counsel; A verbal substitution of counsel albeit impliedly granted by respondent judge, contravenes Sec. 26 of Rule 138 of the Rules of Court w/c prescribes the requirement for change of attorneys, namely: [i] written consent of the client filed in court; and [ii] written notice of the substitution to the adverse party.Requierme v. Judge Yuipco, A.M. No. RTJ-98-1427, Nov. 27, 2000.

PEOFESSIONAL LAW PARTNERSHIP; A partnership of lawyers duly organized and registered under the SEC. Its rights and obligations are governed by the law on partnership of the Civil Code.Law Firm of Abrenica, Tungol & Tibayan v. CA, GR 143706, April 5, 2002.

LAW FIRM; When a client employs the services of a law firm, he does not employ the services of the lawyer who is assigned to personally handle the case. Rather, he employs the entire law firm. In the event that the counsel appearing for the client resigns, the firm is bound to provide a replacement.Rilloraza, Africa, De Ocampo and Africa vs. Eastern Telecommunications, Inc., 309 SCRA 566 (1999); Producers Bank of the Phils. v. CA, GR 126620, April 17, 2002.

JudgesCompetence, Integrity, and Independence; Respondent judge has failed to live up to these standards. His acts of allowing a litigant in his sala to pay for the freight of his personal acquisitions constitutes a blatant violation of Rule %.04, Canon 5 of the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibiting judges from accepting gifts, bequest, favor or loan from anyone except as may be allowed by law.Agpalasin v. Judge Agcaoili, A.M. RTJ-95-1308, April 12, 2000.

Professional Competence; The Code of Judicial Conduct enjoins judges to be faithful to the law and to maintain professional competence. Judges should be diligent in keeping abreast w/ developments in law and jurisprudence, and regard the study of law as a never-ending and ceaseless process.Hold Departure Order Issued by Judge Abalos, A.M. 99-9-141-MTCC, Nov. 25, 1999.

Same; The members of the bench must keep abreast w/ the developments in law and jurisprudence. Under Circular No. 39-97, MTCs have no jurisdiction to issue hold-departure orders.Re: Hold-Departure Order issued by Judge Sardido, A.M. No. 01-9-245-MTC, Dec. 5, 2001.

Same; Application of the Child and Youth Welfare Code (PD 603). Respondent judge betrayed his "ignorance of the law" when he denied the release of Sailan to the custody of complainant. Respondent judge erroneously applied the second paragraph of Section 13 of Rule 114 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure. Had he been more circumspect in ascertaining the applicable laws, respondent judge would have known that Article 191 of P.D. No. 603 properly applies in this case since Sailan was a minor. Article 191 provides: "the court may release a youthful offender on recognizance, to the custody of his parents or other suitable person who shall be responsible for his appearance whenever required."Ligad v. Dipolog, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1386, Dec. 5, 2001.

Incompetence and Gross Ignorance of the Law; The issuance of a search warrant on the ground that complainant allegedly failed to pay the purchase price of the vehicles, contrary to the averment in the application for search warrant w/c cited violation of law and regulation involving tax exemption privileges.Dizon v. Veneracion, July 20, 2000; Daraca v. Natividad, Sept. 27, 2000.

Same; The failure to issue a pre-trial order as required under Sec. 14 of Rule 20 of the Rules of Court cannot be excused by alleged heavy case load of the judge.Maunlad Savings v. CA, GR 114942, Nov. 24, 2000.

Same; If respondent judge felt he could not decide the case w/in the reglementary period, all he had to do was to ask for a reasonable extension of time to decide the case. The Court, cognizant of the caseload of judges and mindful of the difficulty encountered by them in the seasonable disposition of cases, would always grant the request.Villanueva v. Estoque. A.M. NO. RTJ-99-1494, Nov. 29, 2000.

Inefficiency and Gross Ignorance of the Law; The judge explained that he had discretion to add names of respondents in the complaint filed by the police investigator as well as to determine the degree of their participation whether as principal by participation or inducement or as accomplice. When the law transgressed is elementary, the failure to know or observe it constitutes gross ignorance of the law. The Court cannot permit any act or omission which yanks public faith away from the judiciary. Furthermore, The mere failure to propound a proper question to a witness, which might develop some material fact upon which the judgment of the case would vary is considered negligence in the performance of their duties if a miscarriage of justice resulted therefrom. A judge therefore must conscientiously endeavor each time to seek the truth, to know, and aptly apply the law, and to dispose of the controversy objectively and impartially, all to the end that justice is done to every party. 28 These qualities are wanting on the part of respondent judge Cabero v. Judge Caon, A.M. No. MTJ-01-1369, Sept. 20, 2001; Re: Release by Judge Muro of an Accused in a Non-bailable Offense, A.M. No. P-00-7-323-RTJ, Oct. 17, 2001.

Gross Ignorance of the Law; Observance of the law is required of every judge. When the law is sufficiently, basic, a judge owes it to his office to simply apply it; anything less than that is either deliberate disregard thereof or gross ignorance of the law.De Guzman, Jr. v. Sison, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1629, Match 26, 2002.

Partiality; In the present case, respondent judge opened himself to suspicion of partiality when he exhibited extraordinary leniency and indulgent attitude towards the accused.Re: Release by Judge Muro of an Accused in a Non-bailable Offense, A.M. No. P-00-7-323-RTJ, Oct. 17, 2001.

Official Conduct; Judges should be free from any appearance of impropriety and his/her personal behavior, not only upon the bench and in the performance of judicial duties but also in his or her every day life, should be beyond reproach. Use of intemperate and insulting language against a litigant departs from the proper judicial decorum expected and demanded of a judge.Bergonia v. Judge Gonzalez-Decano, A.M. No. 99-692-RTJ, Oct. 29, 1999.

Prompt Disposition of Cases; Judges are bound to dispose of the courts business and to decide cases w/in the required period.Gallego v. Judge Doronilla, A.M. MTJ-00-1278, June 26, 2000.

Same; Sec. 15, Art. VII of the Constitution provides that all cases filed before the lower courts must be decided or resolved w/in 3 months from the date of submission. Non-observance of this mandate constitutes a ground for administrative sanction against the defaulting judge.Mosquera v. Judge Legaspi, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1511, July 10, 2000.

Same; Sec. 15, Art. XVIII of the Constitution provides that lower courts shall decide cases or matters pending before them w/in 3 months from the date of submission of such cases or matters for decision or resolution.Sibayan-Joaquin v. Javellana, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1601, Nov. 13, 2001.

Gross Inefficiency; Undue Delay in Rendering Decision; Lower Courts are mandated by Art. VIII, Sec. 15 (1) of the Constitution to resolve or decide cases w/in 3 months after they have been submitted for decision. An extension of the period may be granted by the Court upon request of the judge concerned on account of heavy caseload or for other reasonable excuse. W/o an extension granted by the Court, a delay in the disposition of cases is tantamount to gross inefficiency on the part of the judge.Arap v. Judge Mustafa, A.M. No. SCC-01-7, March 12, 2002.

Raffle of Cases; The supervision over the raffling of cases is the personal duty and responsibility of the Executive Judge.Santos v. Judge Buenaventura, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1485, Oct. 11, 2001.

Contempt Powers; The role of a judge in relation to those who appear before his court must be one of temperance, patience and courtesy.Comm. Rodriguez v. Judge Bonifacio, Nov. 6, 2000.

Same; A judge who is commanded at all times to be mindful of his high calling and his mission as a dispassionate and impartial arbiter of justice is expected to be a cerebral man who deliberately holds in check the tug and pull of purely personal preferences w/c he shares w/ his fellow mortals.Caas v. Hon. Castigador, GR 139844, Dec. 15, 2000.

Rendering Wrongful Judgment. A judge will be held administratively liable for rendering an unjust judgment where he acts in bad faith, malice, revenge or some other similar motive. Absent the element of bad faith, an erroneous judgment cannot be the basis of a charge of any offense, mere error of judgment not being a ground for disciplinary action. Almendra v. Judge Asis, A.M. RTJ-00-1550, April 6, 2000.

Same; Knowingly Rendering an Unjust Judgment; Complainant failed to show that respondent judge had ill motives in rendering the decision and similarly the records of the case fails to support the accusation. In order to justify a disciplinary action against a judge, or to render him accountable, for an unjust judgment, the error or mistake must be gross or patent, malicious or deliberate, or done in bad faith; any other rule can subject him to undue risks, untold anxiety, and inordinate harassment, or the like, that could make his job miserable and unbearable.Ganzon v. Judge Ereno, A.M. RTJ-00-1554, June 1, 2000.

Same; Same; A charge of rendering an unjust judgment will not proper against a judge acting in good faith. Absent he element of bad faith, an erroneous judgment cannot be the basis of a charge for any said offenses mere error of judgment not being a found for disciplinary proceedings.Sps. Daracan v. Judge Natividad, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1447, Sept. 27, 2000.

Same; Same; For a judge to be held administratively liable for knowingly rendering an unjust judgment, the complaint must prove that the judgment is patently contrary to law or is not supported by the evidence and made w/ deliberate intent to perpetrate an injustice.Frani v. Pagayatan, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1626, Aug. 28, 2001.

Bias or Prejudice; Respondents act of personally furnishing a party copies of orders issued, w/o the same passing through the court docket, is highly irregular giving rise to the suspicion that the judge is partial to one of the parties in the case pending before him.Co v. Judge Calimag, A.M. RTJ-99-1493, June 20, 2000.

Same; An isolated error of judgment would normally not make a judge susceptible to administrative liability. But, here, respondents partiality fro a party to a case before him is evident in his several orders favoring the accused in the criminal case before him, even going to the extent of disregarding settled rulings.Dichaves v. Judge Apalit, A.M. MTJ-00-1274, June 8, 2000.

Same; A judges act of writing to complainants re compromise agreement in a case pending before his court can easily be misunderstood to put to doubt the judges impartiality on the matter before him.Tapiru v. Judge Biden, A.M. MTJ-00-1262, April 6, 2000.

Same; Mere suspicion that the judge is partial to one of the parties is not enough; there must be evidence to prove the charge. Respondent judges effort to have the parties arrive at an amicable settlement is not evidence of partiality. Petitioners claim that respondent judge was biased is belied by his failure to move for respondent judges inhibition.Soriano v. hon. Angeles, GR 109920, Aug. 31, 2000.

Same; 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. While a judge may, to promote justice, prevent waste of time or clear-up some obscurity, properly intervene in the presentation of evidence during trial, it should always be burned in mind that undue interference may prevent the proper presentation of the cause or the ascertainment of truth.Requierme, Jr. v. Yuipco, 2000.

Same; To successfully disqualify a judge on the ground of bias or partiality, there must be concrete proof that a judge has a personal interest in the case and his bias is shown to have stemmed from an extra-judicial source. This precept springs from the presumption that a judge shall decide on the merits of a case w/ an unclouded vision of its facts. Thus, an erroneous ruling on the grant of a bail alone does not constitute evidence of bias. Likewise, respondent judges reliance on the order of confinement even if erroneous is not sufficient to point to the conclusion that he was manifestly partial to the defense.PP v. Hon. Gako, JR., GR 135045, Dec. 15, 2000.

Inhibition of Judges; Section 1, Rule 137 of the Rules of Court lays down the rule on the judge's inhibition and disqualification. The import of the rule on voluntary inhibition of judges is that: ". . . the decision on whether or not to inhibit is left to the sound discretion and conscience of the trial judge based on his rational and logical assessment of the circumstances prevailing in the case brought before him. It points out to the members of the bench that outside of pecuniary interest, relationship or previous participation in the matter that calls for adjudication, there might be other causes that could conceivably erode the trait of objectivity, thus calling for inhibition for, indeed, the factors that lead to preference and predilections are many and varied." Sevilleja v. Laggui, A.M. No. RTJ-01-1612, Aug. 14, 2001.

Same; Voluntary Inhibition; When a suggestion is made of record that the judge be induced to act in favor of one party or w/ bias or prejudice against a litigant arising from circumstances reasonably capable of inciting such a state of mind, the judge should conduct a careful SELF-EXAMINATION. He should exercise his discretion in a way that the peoples faith in the courts of justice is not impaired. A salutary norm is that he should reflect on the probability that the losing party might nurture at the back of his mind the thought that the judge unmeritoriously tiled the scales of justice against him.Villanueva v. Estoque, supra.

Same; For any other reason, a litigant may not demand that a judge inhibit himself. The test for determining the propriety of the denial of a motion to inhibit is whether the movant was deprived of a fair and impartial trial. BIAS and PREJUDICE to be considered valid reasons for the voluntary inhibition of judges, must be proved w/ clear and convincing evidence.Soriano v. CA, GR 100633, Aug. 28, 2001.

Same; Same; It is oftentimes necessary for the presiding judge to re-examine a witness so that his judgment rest upon full and clear understanding of the facts. It is a judges prerogative to ask questions to ferret out the truth. It cannot be taken against him if the questions he propounds reveals certain truth w/c, in turn, tend to destroy the theory of one party.PP v. Rivera, GR 139180, July 31, 2001.

Same; When a judge should inhibit himself from a case. "As to the prayer for inhibition, petitioner claims that the issuance of the questioned Orders shows that respondent Judge has already lost his impartiality or cold neutrality to administer justice, and that petitioner does not stand a chinaman's chance of ever getting justice before respondent Judge. Such sweeping conclusions here do not merit consideration. The questioned Orders, by themselves, do not sufficiently prove bias and prejudice to disqualify respondent Judge under Section 1, second paragraph of Rule 137 of the Rules of Court. For such bias and prejudice, to be a ground for disqualification, must be shown to have stemmed from an extrajudicial source, and result in an opinion on the merits on some basis other than what the judge learned from his participation in the case. Opinions formed in the course of judicial proceedings, as long as they are based on the evidence presented and conduct observed by the judge, even if found later on as erroneous, do not prove personal bias or prejudice on the part of the judge. Extrinsic evidence is required to establish bias, bad faith, malice or corrupt purpose, in addition to palpable error which may be inferred from the decision or order itself. This, the petitioner herein did not sufficiently adduce to warrant respondent Judge's inhibition or disqualification."Viewmaster Construction Corp v. Roxas, GR 133576, July 13, 2000.

Same; Criminal Cases; The Court does not, as a matter of course, dismiss administrative complaints against members of the Bench on account of the withdrawal of the charges or desistance of the complainant from prosecuting the complaint; otherwise its disciplinary power may be put to naught, thereby undermining the trust character of a public office and impairing the integrity and dignity of the Court as a disciplining authority.City Government of Tagbilaran v. Judge Hontanosas, A.M. No. MTJ-98-1169, Jan. 29, 2002.

Negligence; Loss of court records; Inefficiency in the Management of Court and its Personnel; That inefficiency was highlighted by the loss of court records. The loss was not immediately reported to respondent until much later. Although the branch court interpreter admitted her part in the loss of said records, her admission, however, does not exonerate respondent from his administrative liability. Judges are responsible not only for dispensing justice but also for managing their courts efficiently to ensure the prompt delivery of court services. Due diligence in the exercise of respondent's administrative supervision over his court would have readily disclosed the fact that the records of Civil Case No. 96-0256 were missing. Corrective measures could have been taken early on. Obviously, respondent neglected to observe the standard of diligence required for efficient court management.Meris v. Judge Alumbres, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1599, Nov. 15, 2001.

Gross Misconduct; Interceding in Behalf of Suspected Drug Queen; Respondent, then an Associate Justice of the CA, was found guilty of interceding in behalf of a suspected drug queen.In Re: Derogatory News Items Charging CA Justice Demetria, A.M. No. Dec. 19, 2001.

In-Chamber Sessions; This Court cautioned against in-chambers sessions with judges, but only when the other party and their counsel are not present. In the instant case, respondent Judge had been rather open with the parties as to his advise in entering a plea of guilty. It was not an offer clandestinely made.Balderama v. Judge Alagar, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1449, Jan. 18, 2002.

Sanctioning Dishonesty and Defying Directive of the Court; A judge is supposed to set the example for court personnel under his administrative supervision to follow. He cannot expect to be effective in his judicial and administrative duties if he himself acts contrary to the law and the established rules and orders of the SC. Respondent judges conduct in giving a court employee the protective mantle to falsify her official time records, the penalty for w/c is dismissal from the service, and signing the same, merits no less than the penalty of dismissal. Moreover, respondent judges Memorandum authorizing respondent employees further stay in Baguio City was issued in direct contravention of an official action and directive from the Court Administrator through whom the SC exercises administrative supervision over all lower courts and personnel thereof.The Court Administrator v. Abdullahi, A.M. No. P-02-1560, March 20, 2002.

Immoral Conduct; Respondents intimate relationship w/ a woman other than his wife shows his moral indifference to the opinion of good and respectable members of the community.Fr. Sinnott v. Judge Barte, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1453, Dec. 14, 2001.

Improper Conduct; It was improper for respondent judge to allow his wife to have access to court records in his sala. Records of cases are necessarily confidential, and to preserve their integrity and confidentiality, access thereto ought to be limited only to the judge, the parties or their counsel and the appropriate personnel in charge of the custody thereof.Gordon v. Lilagan, A.M. No. RTJ-00*1564, July 26, 2001.

Same; Respondent, in removing the bamboo poles and fishing nets installed by complainant, acted in his private capacity. Nevertheless, w/o in any way prejudging respondents liability, respondent should be admonished to be careful even in his private conduct because he is a model of the law-abiding citizen and, for this reason, his private life cannot be completely separated from his public persona.Bernardo v. Judge Tiamson, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1565, Aug. 16, 2001.

Impropriety; Presence in Gambling Casinos or Cockpits. Judges of inferior courts are enjoined from playing or being present in gambling casinos and/or going to cockpits and placing bets in cockfights (Circular No. 4 issued on 27 August 1980). The fact that the cockpits where respondent used to go were licensed and the cockpits were conducted on authorized days will not absolve him. Verily, it is plainly despicable to see a judge inside a cockpit and more so, to see him bet therein. Mixing w/ the crowd of cockfighting enthusiasts and bettors is unbecoming a judge and undoubtedly impairs the respect due him. Ultimately, the judiciary itself suffers therefrom because a judge is a visible representation of the judiciary. Most often, the public mind does not separate the judge from the judiciary.City Government of Tagbilaran v. Judge Hontanosas, A.M. No. MTJ-98-1169, Jan. 29, 2002.

Same; The judges use of physical violence against a colleague reveals a marked lack of judicial temperament and self-restraint, traits not only desirable but indispensable for every judge to possess; besides the basic equipment of learning in the law. Such behavior puts the judiciary in disrepute. By fighting w/in court premises, the parties have failed, not only to observe the proper decorum expected of members of the judiciary, they have failed to promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.Judge Alumbres v. Judge Caoibes, Jr., A.M. No. RTJ-99-1431, Jan. 23, 2002.

Bribery Not Established. An accusation of bribery is easy to concoct and difficult to disprove, thus, to our mind, the complainant must present a panoply of evidence in support of such an accusation. Inasmuch as what is imputed against the respondent judge connotes a misconduct so grave that, if proven, it would entail dismissal from the bench, the quantum of proof required should be more than substantial." In the same case, we further declared that "[i]n order that the allegation of a charge of this nature may not be considered a fairy tale, evidence other than the doubtful and questionable verbal testimony of a lone witness should be adduced.Co v. Judge Calimag, supra.

Gross Neglect of Duty. Rule 3.05 of Canon 3 enjoins all judges to attend promptly to the business of the court and decide cases and its incidents within the time fixed by law. The failure of a judge to render the decision within the prescribed period of ninety (90) days from submission of a case for decision constitutes serious misconduct, to the detriment of the honor and integrity of his office and in derogation of speedy administration of justice. Inability to decide a case within the required period is not excusable; it constitutes gross inefficiency. 6 We cannot countenance undue delay, at a time when clogging of court dockets is still the bane of the judiciary. Judges are expected to observe utmost diligence and dedication in the performance of their judicial functions and the discharge of their duties. The failure or inability of a judge to decide a case within the period fixed by law subjects him to administrative sanctions. Saylo v. Judge Rojo, A.M. MTJ-99-1225, April 12, 2000.

Grave Misconduct in Office; Defiance toward the Supreme Court; It was not a matter of negligence, but a deliberate act of defiance of the SCs authority by a lower court judge. Respondent judge persistently disregarded well-known legal rules in the designation of acting sheriffs. By such action, he repeatedly usurped the appointing authority of the SC w/c act amounts to grave misconduct in office. In this case, The SC tempered the severity of the recommended sanction considering the long service in the govt. and the judiciary of respondent judge and his obedience to the order of the Court Administrator, thus, evincing remorse and repentance for his unauthorized acts.Office of the Court Administrator v. Judge Veneracion, A.M. RTJ-99-1432, June 21, 2000.

Corruption in Office; Receiving bribe from both parties; While every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand on moral righteousness and uprightness of an individual than a seat in the judiciary. Hence, judges are strictly mandated to abide with the law, the Code of Judicial Conduct and with existing administrative policies in order to maintain the faith of our people in the administration of justice. Judges must adhere to the highest tenets of judicial conduct. They must be the embodiment of competence, integrity and independence. A judge's conduct must be above reproach. Like Caesar's wife, a judge must not only be pure but above suspicion. A judge's private as well as official conduct must at all times be free from all appearances of impropriety, and be beyond reproach. He received a bribe from both sides, "lagaring hapon". He has no place in the judiciary. He dishonored the judicial robe he wore. His acts could even be criminal in nature. We have unhesitatingly removed from office judges and court employees for less serious transgressions.Magarang v. Jdge Jardin, A.M. RTJ-99-1448, April 6, 2000.

Misuse of Office; The reqmt. that a judge be above suspicion extends to the conduct of his private life. While respondent judge may argue that he did not protect his son from arrest, his actuation relative thereto must never serve to fuel suspicion over a misuse of the prestige of his office to enhance personal interest.Tapiru v. Judge Bidin, supra.

Duties of Judges RE Application for Bail; Gross Ignorance of the Law; Failure of the judge to conduct the hearing reqd. prior to the grant of bail in capital offenses.Marzan-Gelacio v. Judge Flores, A.M. RTJ-99-1488, June 20, 2000.

Same; Same; To be held liable for gross ignorance of the law, the judge must be shown to have committed an error that was GROSS or PATENT, DELIBERATE and MALICIOUS.Zarate v. Judge Balderian, A.M. MTJ-00-1261, April 3, 2000.

Grave Abuse of Discretion; Respondent judge dismissed the information on the ground that the administrative case filed against private respondent w/ the Office of the Ombudsman had been dismissed. Said dismissal amounts to grave abuse of discretion. Administrative cases are independent from criminal actions for the same act or omission. Besides, the reliance made by respondent judge on the re-election of private respondent as Kagawad in the May 1992 election so as to warrant the dismissal of the information filed against him, citing Aguinaldo v. Santos is misplaced. The ruling in said case w/c forbids the removal from office of a public official fro administrative misconduct committed during a prior term does not apply to criminal cases pending against said public official.PP v. Toledano, GR 110220, May 18, 2000.

Ex-Parte Proceedings; Ocular Inspection; An ex-parte ocular inspection w/o notice to nor presence of the parties and after the case had already been decided was highly improper. If respondent judge entertained doubts that she wished to clarify after the trial had already terminated, she should have ordered muto proprio the reopening of the trial fort he purpose, w/ due notice to the parties, whose participation therein is essential to due process.Adan v. Judge Abucejo-Luzano, A.M. No. MTJ-00-1298, Aug. 3, 2000.

Disciplinary Procee-dingsDisciplinary Proceedings Against Lawyers; Nature; They are sui generis, in that they are neither civil nor criminal actions but rather investigations by the Court into the conduct of its officers. Although these proceedings are not, in the strict sense, ordinary actions where trials are held and the rules of procedure apply, the rules on evidence cannot be shunted aside considering that the exercise of ones profession is at stake.Concepcion v. Atty. Fanfino, Adm. Case No. 3677, June 21, 2000.

Same; Same; Actions against lawyers cannot be abated by the complainants w/drawal of charges or refusal to prosecute. Failure to answer a complaint is not equivalent to an admission of the allegations therein.De Ere v. Rubi, A.C. No. 5176, Dec. 14, 1999.

Same; Burden of Proof; In administrative cases against lawyers, the burden of proof rests upon the complainant. Complaints that are prima facie groundless as shown in the pleadings filed by the parties need not be referred to the IBP for further investigation and may be summarily dismissed for utter lack of merit.Manubay v. Atty. Garcia, Adm. Case No. 4700, April 12, 2000.

Same; Disbarment Proceedings; In complaints for disbarment, a formal investigation is a mandatory requirement except in such extreme situations as when respondent fails to appear at the hearing despite reasonable notice. Relevant guidelines in disbarment cases: "Complaints against lawyers for misconduct are normally addressed to the Court. If, at the outset, the Court finds a complaint to be clearly wanting in merit, it outrightly dismisses the case. If, however, the Court deems it necessary that further inquiry should be made, such as when the matter could not be resolved by merely evaluating the pleadings submitted, a referral is made to the IBP for a formal investigation of the case during which the parties are accorded an opportunity to be heard. An ex parte investigation may only be conducted when respondent fails to appear despite reasonable notice. The applicable provisions are provided for in Rule 139-B of the Rules of Court.De los Santos v. Robiso, Admin Case 5165, Dec. 14, 2001.

Same; Sanctions; Neither disbarment nor suspension should be imposed unless the case against a lawyer is free from doubt not only as to the acts but as to its motive.Osop v. Atty. Fontanilla, 2001.

Same; Indefinite Suspension from Law Practice. The indefiniteness of respondent's suspension, far from being "cruel" or "degrading" or "inhuman" has the effect of placing, as it were, the key to the restoration of his rights and privileges as a lawyer in his own hands. That sanction has the effect of giving respondent the chance to purge himself in his own good time of his contempt and misconduct by acknowledging such misconduct, exhibiting appropriate repentance and demonstrating his willingness and capacity to live up to the exacting standards of conduct rightly demanded from every member of the bar and officer of the courts. Respondents suspension must deservingly be fixed at ten (10) years. Consequently, the same may only be lifted after the expiration of the said period, counted from the time when his suspension actually commenced.Dumadag v. Atty. Lumaya, Adm. Case No. 2614, June 29, 2000.

Same; Lawyers in Government Service; A lawyer who holds a government position may not be disciplined as a member of the bar for misconduct in the discharge of his duties as a government official. However, if the misconduct also constitutes violation of the CPR or the lawyers oath or is of such character as to affect his qualification as a lawyer or shows moral delinquency on his part, such individual may be disciplined as a member of the bar for such misconduct. Br certifying as true and correct the SoVs in question, respondent committed breach of Rule 1.01 of the Code w/c stipulates that a lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest, immoral or deceitful conduct. By express provision of Canon 6, this is made applicable to lawyers in the government service. In addition, the lawyers oath to do no falsehood was likewise violated.Pimentel v. llorente, Admin. Case No. 4680, Aug. 29, 2000.

Disciplinary Proceedings against Judges; Disciplinary proceedings and criminal actions against judges do not complement, supplement, or substitute judicial remedies, whether ordinary or extraordinary. An inquiry into their civil, criminal and administrative liability may be made only after the available remedies have been exhausted and decided w/ finality, Moreover, a party litigant abuses the process of the court by prematurely resorting to administrative disciplinary action or criminal prosecution of a judge even before the judicial remedies are settled.Caguioa v. Judge Lavia, A.M. No. RTJ-00-1553, Nov. 20, 2000.

Same; Judicial Remedy not Administrative; An administrative complaint against a judge cannot be pursued simultaneously w/ the judicial remedies accorded to parties aggrieved by an erroneous judgment. The administrative or criminal remedies are neither alternative nor commulative to judicial review where such review is available, and must wait on the result thereof.Frani v. Pagayatan, supra; Fr. Sinnot v. Judge Barte, supra.

Same; Administrative Cases; Sec. 3, Rule 17 of the Rules of Court provides that if the plaintiff fails to comply w/ any order of the court, the action may be dismissed upon motion of the defendant or upon the courts own motion, and the dismissal shall have the effect of an adjudication on the merits, unless otherwise provided by the court. The Court has applied this rule in an administrative case against a judge where the complainant failed to appear and present evidence despite notice. The Court would like to put to task complainants who file administrative cases against members of the bench and later desist from pursuing them to their conclusion. Judges should be protected from frivolous complaints for they erode the administration of justice.Vistan v. Judge Angeles, A.M. No. RTJ-02-1672, Jan. 30, 2002.

Same; Forfeiture of Retirement Benefits; Forfeiture of retirement benefits and leave credits is sanctioned by Rule XIV [Discipline] of the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of EO 292 (Adminstrative Code of 1987) and other pertinent Civil Service laws. In a number of cases involving judges and court personnel, THE COURT HAS SHOWN COMPASSION in imposing the penalty of forfeiture of leave credits and retirement benefits and disqualification for reemployment in GOCCs. These cases paved the way for the amendment of Rule 140, ROC. Before its amendment, Rule 140 only provided for the procedure in case a complaint was filed against a RTC judge. There was no mention of specific sanctions that may be imposed. As Amended, Rule 140 now provides for specific sanctions serving as basis for the Court to order the forfeiture of retirement benefits in whole or in part, depending on the circumstances of each case.Atty. Meris v. Judge Ofilada, A.M. No. RTJ- 97-1390, Oct. 17, 2001.

Same; Death or Retirement and Administrative Liability; The cassation from office of respondent judge due to death does not per se warrant the dismissal of the administrative complaint filed against him while he was still in the service.Cabaero v. Judge Caon, 2001.

Same; Same; Neither is the retirement of a judge from the service a bar to the finding of any administrative liability to w/c he shall still be answerable.Pagayao v. Imbing, A.M. No. 89-403, Aug. 15, 2001; Lilia v. Judge Fanual, A.M. No. RTJ-99-1503, Dec. 13, 2001.