LEGAL NOTE 0025: PRIMER FOR JUDGES RE  DEADLINE FOR DECIDING/RESOLVING CASES/MOTIONS.

 SOURCE: OFFICE OF THE COURT ADMINISTRATOR VS. FORMER JUDGE LEONARDO L. LEONIDA, OF THE REGIONAL TRIAL COURT BRANCH 27, STA. CRUZ, LAGUNA (A.M. NO. RTJ-09-2198, 18 JANUARY 2011, CORONA, C.J) SUBJECT: FAILURE OF JUDGE TO DECIDE CASES WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD. (BRIEF TITLE: OCA VS. JUDGE LEONIDA)

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JUDGE LEONIDA FAILED TO RESOLVE MOTIONS IN TEN (10) CIVIL CASES; DECIDE ELEVEN (11) CRIMINAL CASES, AND TWENTY-SEVEN (27) CIVIL CASES IN BRANCH 27, AND TO DECIDE NINETY-ONE (91) CRIMINAL CASES AND SIXTEEN (16) CIVIL CASES IN BRANCH 74 WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD. WHAT IS HIS OFFENSE AND PENALTY?

 

JUDGE LEONIDA IS GUILTY OF GROSS INCOMPETENCY AND INEFFICIENCY. SC FINED HIM P50,000.00 PESOS TO BE DEDUCTED FROM HIS RETIREMENT BENEFITS.

 

WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF THE FAILURE OF A JUDGE TO DECIDE A CASE WITHIN THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD?

 

IT DEPRIVES LITIGANT OF THE RIGHT TO SPEEDY DISPOSITION OF HIS CASE;

IT MAGNIFIES COST OF SEEKING JUSTICE;

IT UNDERMINES PEOPLE’S FAITH AND CONFIDENCE IN THE JUDICIARY; AND

IT LOWERS ITS STANDARDS AND BRINGS IT TO DISREPUTE.

Precedents have shown that the failure of a judge to decide a case within the reglementary period warrants administrative sanction.  The Court treats such cases with utmost rigor for any delay in the administration of justice; no matter how brief, deprives the litigant of his right to a speedy disposition of his case.[1][14] Not only does it magnify the cost of seeking justice; it undermines the people’s faith and confidence in the judiciary, lowers its standards and brings it to disrepute.[2][15]

 

HOW LONG IS THE REGLEMENTARY PERIOD?

 

90 DAYS FROM DATE OF SUBMISSION.

No less than Section 15 (1), Article 8 of the 1987 Constitution mandates that all cases or matters filed before all lower courts shall be decided or resolved within three (3) months from the date of submission.  The prescribed period is a firm mandatory rule for the efficient administration of justice and not merely one for indulgent tweaking.

 

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF SUCH DEADLINE?

 

MANDATORY.

As a general principle, rules prescribing the time within which certain acts must be done, or certain proceedings taken, are considered absolutely indispensable to the prevention of needless delays and for the orderly and speedy discharge of judicial business. By their very nature, these rules are regarded as mandatory.[3][16]

 

WHAT IS THE BASIS?

 

THE CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT AND ADMIN CIRCULAR DATED 15 JANUARY 1999

 In the same vein, Canon 3, Rule 3.05 of the Code of Judicial Conduct is emphatic in enjoining judges to administer justice without delay by disposing of the court’s business promptly and deciding cases within the period prescribed by law.

Corollary to this, Administrative Circular No. 3-99 dated January 15, 1999, requires all judges to scrupulously observe the periods prescribed in the Constitution for deciding cases, because failure to comply therewith violates the constitutional right of the parties to speedy disposition of the cases.[4][17] Only in certain meritorious cases, that is, those involving difficult questions of law or complex issues, may a longer period to decide the case be allowed but only upon proper application for extension of the period has been made by the concerned judge.[5][18] 

 

IF JUDGE FAILS TO DECIDE WITHIN THE REQUIRED PERIOD, WHAT IS HIS OFFENSE?

 

GROSS INEFFICIENCY.

The Court has always considered a judge’s delay in deciding cases within the prescribed period of three months as gross inefficiency.[6][21]   Undue delay cannot be countenanced at a time when the clogging of the court dockets is still the bane of the judiciary.  The raison d’ etre of courts lies not only in properly dispensing justice but also in being able to do so seasonably.[7][22]

 

WHAT MUST JUDGES OBSERVE IN CONNECTION WITH SAID DEADLINE?

 

EFFICIENCY WITH PROBITY.

The administration of justice demands that those who don judicial robes be able to comply fully and faithfully with the task set before them.[8][24] As frontline officials of the judiciary, judges should, at all times, act with efficiency and with probity.  They are duty-bound not only to be faithful to the law, but likewise to maintain professional competence.  The pursuit of excellence must be their guiding principle. This is the least that judges can do to sustain the trust and confidence which the public reposed on them and the institution they represent. [9][25]


[1][14] OCA v. Garcia-Blanco, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1941, April 25, 2006, 488 SCRA 109, 121, citing Bangco v. Gatdula, 428 Phil. 598, 604 (2002). 

[2][15] Duque v. Garrido,,  A.M. No. RTJ-06-2027, February 27, 2009, 580 SCRA 321, 327.

[3][16] Balajedeong v. Del Rosario, A.M. No. MTJ-07-1662, June 8, 2007,  524 SCRA 13, 17, citing Gachon v. Devera, Jr., G.R. No. 116695, June 20 1997, 274 SCRA 540, 548-549.

[4][17] Re: Cases Submitted for Decision Before Hon. Meliton G. Emuslan, Former Judge, Regional Trial Court, Branch 47, Urdaneta City, Pangasinan, Resolution A.M. No. RTJ-10-2226, March 22, 2010.

[5][18] Lopez v. Alon, 324 Phil. 396, 398 (1996).

[6][21] Guintu v. Judge Lucero, 329 Phil. 704, 711 (1996).

[7][22] Dee C. Chuan & Sons, Inc., A.M. No. RTJ-05-1917, April 16, 2009, 585 SCRA 93, 98, citing Concerned Trial Lawyers of Manila v. Veneracion, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1920, 26 April 2006, 488 SCRA 285, 296 and Lim, Jr. v. Magallanes, A.M. No. RTJ-05-1932, 2 April 2007, 520 SCRA 12.

[8][24] OCA v. Legaspi Jr.,  A.M. No. MTJ-06-1661, January 25, 2007,  512 SCRA 570, 583.

[9][25] Re: Report on the judicial audit in the RTC, Br. 32, Manila, 481 Phil. 431, 447 (2004), citing Juan De los Santos v. Mangino, 453 Phil. 467, 479 (2003).