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JCT Jurisprudence Notes on Legal and Judicial Ethics

A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions


Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

THE LAWYER’S OATH

I___________ do solemnly swear that I will maintain allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines;
I will support its Constitution and obey laws as well as the legal orders of the duly constituted
authorities therein; I will do no falsehood, nor consent to the doing of any court; I will not wittingly
nor willingly promote or sue any groundless, false or unlawful suit, or give aid nor consent to the
same; I will delay no man for money or malice, and will conduct myself as a lawyer according to the
best of my knowledge and discretion with all good fidelity as well to the courts as to my clients; and
I impose upon myself this voluntary obligations without any mental reservation or purpose of
evasion. So help me God.

LEGAL ETHICS

Immoral Conduct
1. The Code of Professional Responsibility provides that "[a] lawyer shall not engage in unlawful, dishonest,
immoral or deceitful conduct" (Rule 1.01); he "shall not, for any corrupt motive or interest, encourage any
suit or proceeding or delay any man's cause" (Rule 1.03); he "shall not do any falsehood, nor consent to the
doing of any in Court, nor shall he mislead, or allow the Court to be misled by any artifice" (Rule 10.01);
and he "shall not knowingly x x x assert as a fact that which has not been proved" (Rule 10.02).
a. Suffice it to state that lawyers should not transcend the bounds of propriety and commit a travesty
before this Court by willfully, intentionally and deliberately resorting to falsehood and deception
in handling their client's case in order to misguide, obstruct and impede the proper administration
of justice. (Magsaysay Maritime Corporation v. Mazaredo, 2015)
2. A lawyer may be disbarred or suspended for any violation of his oath, a patent disregard of his duties, or
an odious deportment unbecoming an attorney. A lawyer must at no time be wanting in probity and moral
fiber which are not only conditions precedent to his entrance to the Bar but are likewise essential demands
for his continued membership therein.
a. Canon 15: A lawyer shall observe candor, fairness and loyalty in all his dealings and transactions
with his clients.
b. Rule 18.03: A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in
connection therewith shall render him liable.
c. Rule 18.04: A lawyer shall keep the client informed of the status of his case and shall respond within
a reasonable time to the client's request for information.
3. While the same Code of Professional Responsibility recognizes the right of a lawyer to have a lien over the
funds and property of his client as may be necessary to satisfy his lawful fees, Rule 16.03 demands that "[a]
lawyer shall deliver the funds and property of his client when due or upon demand." This is a reiteration
of Rule 16.01, which states that "[a] lawyer shall account for all money and property collected or received
for or from the client."
a. A lawyer should be scrupulously careful in handling money entrusted to him in his professional
capacity. Consequently, when a lawyer receives money from a client for a particular purpose, the
lawyer is bound to render an accounting to his client, showing that he spent the money for the
purpose intended.
4. A lawyer's negligence in the discharge of his obligations arising from the relationship of counsel and client
may cause delay in the administration of justice and prejudice the rights of a litigant particularly his client.
Thus, from the perspective of the ethics of the legal profession, a lawyer's lethargy in carrying out his duties
to his client is both unprofessional and unethical. Indeed, under their sacred oath, lawyers pledge not to
delay any person for money or malice. (Chua v. Jimenez, 2016)

Determination of Amount of Attorney’s Fees


1. Notwithstanding the absence of an express authority from the board, a lawyer who represented the union
with the knowledge and acquiescence of the board, and the acceptance of benefits arising from the service
rendered, is entitled to a reasonable value of his professional services on a quantum meruit basis.

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A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

a. Quantum meruit simply means as much as he deserves. In no case, however, must a lawyer be
allowed to recover more than what is reasonable, pursuant to Section 24, Rule 138 of the Rules of
Court.
2. In fixing a reasonable compensation for the services rendered by a lawyer on the basis of quantum meruit,
the elements to be considered are generally:
a. the importance of the subject matter in controversy;
b. the extent of services rendered; and
c. the professional standing of the lawyer.
3. A determination of these factors would indispensably require nothing less than a full-blown trial where
the party can adduce evidence to establish the right to lawful attorney's fees and for the other party to
oppose or refute the same. (Loy v. San Miguel Corporation Employees Union-Philippine Transport, 2011)

Conflict of Interest
1. Rule 15.03: A lawyer shall not represent conflicting interests except by written consent of all concerned
given after a full disclosure of the facts.
2. A lawyer may not, without being guilty of professional misconduct, act as counsel for a person whose
interest conflicts with that of his present or former client.
a. The prohibition against representing conflicting interests is absolute and the rule applies even if
the lawyer has acted in good faith and with no intention to represent conflicting interests.
3. Lawyers are expected not only to keep inviolate the client's confidence, but also to avoid the appearance of
treachery and double-dealing for only then can litigants be encouraged to entrust their secrets to their
lawyers, which is of paramount importance in the administration of justice.
4. A lawyer who takes up the cause of the adversary of the party who has engaged the services of his law firm
brings the law profession into public disrepute and suspicion and undermines the integrity of justice.
a. Thus, respondent's argument that he never took advantage of any information acquired by his law
firm in the course of its professional dealings with the complainant, even assuming it to be true, is
of no moment.
b. Undeniably aware of the fact that complainant is a client of his law firm, respondent should have
immediately informed both the complainant and Balageo that he, as well as the other members of
his law firm, cannot represent any of them in their legal tussle; otherwise, they would be
representing conflicting interests and violate the Code of Professional Responsibility.
c. Indeed, respondent could have simply advised both complainant and Balageo to instead engage
the services of another lawyer. (Daging v. David, 2014)

Disbarment
1. Rule 138, Sec. 27 of the Rules of Court provides:

Disbarment or suspension of attorneys by Supreme Court; grounds therefor. - A member of the bar
may be disbarred or suspended from his office as attorney by the Supreme Court for any deceit,
malpractice, or other gross misconduct in such office, grossly immoral conduct, or by reason of his
conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude, or for any violation of the oath which he is
required to take before admission to practice, or for a wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a
superior court, or for corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without
authority to do so. The practice of soliciting cases at law for the purpose of gain, either personally
or through paid agents or brokers, constitutes malpractice.

2. It is thus clear from the foregoing provision that in any of the following circumstances, to wit:
a. Deceit;
b. Malpractice;
c. Gross misconduct;
d. Grossly immoral conduct;
e. Conviction of a crime involving moral turpitude;
f. Violation of the lawyer's oath;

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JCT Jurisprudence Notes on Legal and Judicial Ethics
A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

g. Wilful disobedience of any lawful order of a superior court; or


h. Corruptly or wilfully appearing as an attorney for a party to a case without authority to do so;
3. The Court is vested with the authority and discretion to impose either the extreme penalty of disbarment
or mere suspension. Certainly, the Court is not placed in a straitjacket as regards the penalty to be imposed.
There is no ironclad rule that disbarment must immediately follow upon a finding of deceit or gross
misconduct. The Court is not mandated to automatically impose the extreme penalty of disbarment. It is
allowed by law to exercise its discretion either to disbar or just suspend the erring lawyer based on its
appreciation of the facts and circumstances of the case.
4. Disbarment, jurisprudence teaches, should not be decreed where any punishment less severe, such as
reprimand, suspension, or fine, would accomplish the end desired. This is as it should be considering the
consequence of disbarment on the economic life and honor of the erring person.
a. While we will not hesitate to remove an erring attorney from the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers,
where the evidence calls for it, we will also not disbar him where a lesser penalty will suffice to
accomplish the desired end.
5. While it is true that lawyers owe "entire devotion" to the cause of their clients, it cannot be emphasized
enough that their first and primary duty is "not to the client but to the administration of justice."
6. Canon 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility states that "A lawyer shall exert every effort and
consider it his duty to assist in the speedy and efficient administration of justice." Thus, in the use of Court
processes, the lawyer's zeal to win must be tempered by the paramount consideration that justice be done
to all parties involved, and the lawyer for the losing party should not stand in the way of the execution of
a valid judgment.
7. Because a lawyer is an officer of the court called upon to assist in the administration of justice, any act of a
lawyer that obstructs, perverts, or impedes the administration of justice constitutes misconduct and justifies
disciplinary action against him. (Salabao v. Villaruel, 2015)
8. The purpose of disbarment is to protect the courts and the public from the misconduct of the officers of the
court and to ensure the administration of justice by requiring that those who exercise this important
function shall be competent, honorable and trustworthy men in whom courts and clients may repose
confidence.
9. The object of a disbarment proceeding is not so much to punish the individual attorney himself as to
safeguard the administration of justice by protecting the court and the public from the misconduct of
officers of the court, and to remove from the profession of law persons whose disregard for their oath of
office has proved them unfit to continue discharging the trust reposed in them as members of the bar.
(Anacta v. Resurrecion, 2012)
10. The power to disbar or suspend ought always to he exercised on the preservative and not vindictive
principle with great caution and only for most weighty reasons.
11. In suspension or disbarment proceedings, lawyers enjoy the presumption of innocence, and the burden of
proof rests upon the complainant to clearly prove her allegations by preponderant evidence.
12. It is true that under Rules 2.01 and 2.02, Canon 2 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, a lawyer shall
not reject, except for valid reasons, the cause of the defenseless or the oppressed, and in such cases, even if
he does not accept a case, shall not refuse to render legal advice to the person concerned if only to the extent
necessary to safeguard the latter's right.
13. It is well to remind Atty. Espejo that before being a friend to Rodica, he is first and foremost an officer of
the court. Hence, he is expected to maintain a high standard of honesty and fair dealings and n1ust conduct
himself beyond reproach at all times. He must likewise ensure that he acts within the bounds of reason and
common sense, always aware that he is an instrument of truth and justice. (Rodica v. Lazaro, 2012)
14. It is settled that it is the notary public who is personally accountable for the accuracy of the entries in his
Notarial Register.
15. Notarization is not an empty, meaningless or routinary act but one invested with substantive public
interest, such that only those who are qualified or authorized to do so may act as notaries public. The
protection of that interest necessarily requires that those not qualified or authorized to act must be
prevented from inflicting themselves upon the public, the courts and the administrative offices in general.

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A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

16. Notarization by a notary public converts a private document into a public one and makes it admissible in
evidence without further proof of its authenticity. Notaries public must therefore observe utmost care with
respect to the basic requirements of their duties.
17. Under the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, the respondent's failure to make the proper entry or entries in
his Notarial Register of his notarial acts, his failure to require the presence of a principal at the time of the
notarial acts, and his failure to identify a principal on the basis of personal knowledge by competent
evidence are grounds for the revocation of a lawyer's commission as a notary public. (Agadan v. Kilaan,
2013)
18. It is imperative to first determine whether the matter falls within the disciplinary authority of the Court or
whether the matter is a proper subject of judicial action against lawyers. If the matter involves violations
of the lawyer's oath and code of conduct, then it falls within the Court's disciplinary authority. However,
if the matter arose from acts which carry civil or criminal liability, and which do not directly require an
inquiry into the moral fitness of the lawyer, then the matter would be a proper subject of a judicial action
which is understandably outside the purview of the Court's disciplinary authority.
19. As an officer of the court, respondent is expected to know that a resolution of this Court is not a mere
request but an order which should be complied with promptly and completely. This is also true of the
orders of the IBP as the investigating arm of the Court in administrative cases against lawyers. (Felipe v.
Macapagal, 2013)
20. The Code of Professional Responsibility demands the utmost degree of fidelity and good faith in dealing
with the moneys entrusted to lawyers because of their fiduciary relationship.
a. Specifically, Rule 16.01 of the Code imposes upon the lawyer the duty to "account for all money or
property collected or received for or from the client."
b. Rule 16.03 thereof, on the other hand, mandates that "[a] lawyer shall deliver the funds x x x of his
client when due or upon demand."
21. The fiduciary nature of the relationship between counsel and client imposes on a lawyer the duty to account
for the money or property collected or received for or from the client. He is obliged to render a prompt
accounting of all the property and money he has collected for his client.
a. The fact that a lawyer has a lien for his attorney's fees on the money in his hands collected for his
client does not relieve him from the obligation to make a prompt accounting.
b. Moreover, a lawyer has no right "to unilaterally appropriate his client's money for himself by the
mere fact alone that the client owes him attorney's fees. (Viray v. Sanicas, 2014)
22. As a rule, for one to be held administratively accountable for gross ignorance of the law, there must be a
showing that the error was gross and patent as to support a conclusion that the actor was so moved with
malice, bad faith, corruption, fraud, and dishonesty.
a. Well-settled is the rule that unless the acts were committed with fraud, dishonesty, corruption,
malice or ill-will, bad faith, or deliberate intent to do an injustice, respondent judge may not be
held administratively liable for gross misconduct, ignorance of the law or incompetence of official
acts in the exercise of judicial functions and duties, particularly in the adjudication of cases.
b. Further, to hold a judge administratively accountable for every erroneous rule or decision he
renders would be nothing short of harassment and would make his position doubly unbearable.
To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the
facts or interpret the law in the process of the administration of justice can be infallible in his
judgment. (Andres v. Nambi, 2015)
23. Canon 18 requires every lawyer to serve his client with utmost dedication, competence and diligence. He
must not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him and his negligence in this regard renders him
administratively liable.
24. A lawyer is first and foremost an officer of the: court. Thus, while he owes his entire devotion to the interest
and causes of his client, he must ensure that he acts within the bounds of reason and common sense, always
aware that he is an instrument of truth and justice. More importantly, as an officer of the court and its
indispensable partner in the sacred task of administering justice, graver responsibility is imposed upon a
lawyer than any other to uphold the integrity of the courts and to show respect to its processes. Thus, any
act on his part which tends visibly to obstruct, pervert or impede and degrade the administration of justice

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A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

constitutes professional misconduct calling for the exercise of disciplinary action against him. (Davao Import
Distributors v. Landero, 2015)
25. Rule 12.03: A lawyer shall not, after obtaining extensions of time to file pleadings, memoranda or briefs, let
the period lapse without submitting the same or offering an explanation for his failure to do so.
26. Rule 18.03: A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable. (Caoile v. Macaraeg, 2015)

Respect for the Court


1. Court orders are to be respected not because the judges who issue them should be respected, but because
of the respect and consideration that should be extended to the judicial branch of the Government. This is
absolutely essential if our Government is to be a government of laws and not of men. Respect must be had
not because of the incumbents to the positions, but because of the authority that vests in them. Disrespect
to judicial incumbents is disrespect to that branch of the Government to which they belong, as well as to
the State which has instituted the judicial system.
a. As an officer of the court, Atty. Flores is expected to be circumspect in his language. Rule 11.03,
Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins all attorneys to abstain from
scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the Courts. Atty. Flores failed in
this respect.
2. While a lawyer owes absolute fidelity to the cause of his client, full devotion to his client's genuine interest
and warm zeal in the maintenance and defense of his client's rights, as well as the exertion of his utmost
learning and ability, he must do so only within the bounds of law. A lawyer is entitled to voice his criticism
within the context of the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech which must be exercised
responsibly. After all, every right carries with it the corresponding obligation. Freedom is not freedom from
responsibility, but freedom with responsibility. The lawyer's fidelity to his client must not be pursued at
the expense of truth and orderly administration of justice. It must be done within the confines of reason
and common sense. (Rodriguez-Manahan v. Flores, 2013)

Loyalty to Clients
1. A lawyer may not, for his own personal interest and benefit, gamble on his client's word, believing it at one
time and disbelieving it the next. He owes his client his undivided loyalty.
a. Petitioner Atty. Sabitsana took advantage of confidential information disclosed to him by his client,
using the same to defeat him and beat him to the draw, so to speak. He rushed the sale and
registration thereof ahead of his client. He may not be afforded the excuse that he nonetheless
proceeded to buy the lot because he believed or assumed that the Muerteguis were simply bluffing
when Carmen told him that they had already bought the same; this is too convenient an excuse to
be believed.
b. As the Muertegui family lawyer, he had no right to take a position, using information disclosed to
him in confidence by his client, that would place him in possible conflict with his duty. He may
not, for his own personal interest and benefit, gamble on his client's word, believing it at one time
and disbelieving it the next. He owed the Muerteguis his undivided loyalty. He had the duty to
protect the client, at all hazards and costs even to himself.
2. The termination of attorney-client relation provides no justification for a lawyer to represent an interest
adverse to or in conflict with that of the former client on a matter involving confidential information which
the lawyer acquired when he was counsel. The client's confidence once reposed should not be divested by
mere expiration of professional employment. (Sps. Sabitsana v. Muertegui, 2013)

Negligence of Duty
1. Ordinarily, the mistake, negligence or lack of competence of counsel binds the client. This is based on the
rule that any act performed by a counsel within the scope of his general or implied authority is regarded
as an act of his client.
a. A recognized exception to the rule is when the lawyers were grossly negligent in their duty to
maintain their client's cause and such amounted to a deprivation of their client's property without

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A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

due process of law. In which case, the courts must step in and accord relief to a client who suffered
thereby.
2. A lawyer owes entire devotion to the interest of his client, warmth and zeal in the maintenance and defense
of his rights and the exertion of his utmost learning and ability, to the end that nothing can be taken or
withheld from his client except in accordance with the law. (Diona v. Balangue, 2013)
3. Canon 18: A lawyer shall serve his client with competence and diligence.
4. Rule 18.03: A lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to him, and his negligence in connection
therewith shall render him liable.
5. Canon 22 allows a lawyer to withdraw his services for good cause such as “when the client pursues an
illegal or immoral course of conduct with the matter he is handling" or "when the client insists that the
lawyer pursue conduct violative of these canons and rules.” (Sps. Warriner v. Dublin, 2013)
6. Indeed, when a lawyer takes a client's cause, he covenants that he will exercise due diligence in protecting
the latter's rights. Failure to exercise that degree of vigilance and attention expected of a good father of a
family makes the lawyer unworthy of the trust reposed on him by his client and makes him answerable
not just to his client but also to the legal profession, the courts and society.
a. Complainant also established that she made several follow-ups with the respondent but the latter
merely ignored her or made her believe that he was diligently handling her case. Thus,
complainant was surprised when she received a notice from the Court of Appeals informing her
that her appeal had been abandoned and her case dismissed. The dismissal had become final and
executory.
b. This is a clear violation of Rule 18.04, Canon 18 of the Code of Professional Responsibility which
enjoins lawyers to keep their clients informed of the status of their case and shall respond within a
reasonable time to the clients' request for information. (Cabauatan v. Venida, 2013)

JUDICIAL ETHICS

Delay in the Disposition of Cases


1. Courts exist to administer justice fairly and without delay. Our overriding concern is to eradicate the
impression formed in the minds of the litigants that the wheels of justice grind ever so slowly. We have
always reminded the judges to dispose of the cases within the prescribed period of time because we do not
want the truism - justice delayed is justice denied - to lose its meaning or relevance. In the same context,
we have constantly exhorted all court employees to be conscientious of their duties and responsibilities
considering that any indiscretion or transgression on their part would impact negatively on the Court as
an institution.
2. Article VIII, Section 15(1) of the Constitution succinctly provides that:

SEC. 15. (1) All cases or matters filed after the effectivity of this Constitution must be decided or
resolved within twenty-four months from date of submission for the Supreme Court, and, unless
reduced by the Supreme Court, twelve months for all lower collegiate courts, and three months for
all other lower courts.

3. As such, lower courts are given a period of 90 days only within which to decide or resolve a case from the
time it is submitted for decision
4. This Court has incessantly admonished members of the bench to administer justice without undue delay,
for justice delayed is justice denied. The present clogged dockets in all levels of our judicial system cannot
be cleared unless every magistrate earnestly, painstakingly and faithfully complies with the mandate of the
law. Undue delay in the disposition of cases amounts to a denial of justice which, in turn, brings the courts
into disrepute and ultimately erodes the faith and confidence of the public in the judiciary.
5. Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct categorically exhorts all judges to perform all
judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decisions, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable
promptness.
6. In Report on the Judicial Audit Conducted in the MTCC, Branch 2, Cagayan de Oro City, we declared that:

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We are not unmindful of the burden of heavy caseloads heaped on the shoulders of every trial
judge. But that cannot excuse them from doing their mandated duty to resolve cases with diligence
and dispatch. Judges burdened with heavy caseloads should request the Court for an extension of
the reglementary period within which to decide their cases if they think they cannot comply with
their judicial duty. Hence, under the circumstances, all that said judge needed to do was request
for an extension of time since this Court has, almost invariably, been considerate with regard to
such requests. x x x A heavy caseload may excuse a judges failure to decide cases within the
reglementary period but not their failure to request an extension of time within which to decide
the case on time.

7. Delay in the disposition of cases not only deprives litigants of their right to speedy disposition of their
cases, but also tarnishes the image of the judiciary. Procrastination among members of the judiciary in
rendering decisions and taking appropriate actions on the cases before them not only causes great injustice
to the parties involved but also invites suspicion of ulterior motives on the part of the judge, in addition to
the fact that it erodes the faith and confidence of our people in the judiciary, lowers its standards and brings
it into disrepute.
8. Clerks of court are essential judicial officers who perform delicate administrative functions vital to the
prompt and proper administration of justice. Their duty is, inter alia, to assist in the management of the
calendar of the court and in all matters that do not involve discretion or judgment properly belonging to
the judge. They play a key role in the complement of the court, as their office is the hub of adjudicative and
administrative orders, processes and concerns. As such, they are required to be persons of competence,
honesty and probity, they cannot be permitted to slacken on their jobs. (Delos Reyes v. Judge Cruz, 2010)

Gross Ignorance of the Law


1. A judge owes the public and the court the duty to know the law by heart and to have the basic rules of
procedure at the palm of his hands.
2. Blatant disregard of basic, elementary, and well-known rules of procedure and law is gross ignorance of
the law, which is classified as a serious charge under Rule 140, Section 8 of the Rules of Court, as amended
by A.M. No. 01-8-10-SC, punishable by either dismissal from service, suspension for more than three
months but not exceeding six months, or a fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00. (Sps.
Sombilon v. Atty. Garay, 2014)
3. Basic is the rule that a bail hearing is necessary even if the prosecution does not interpose any objection or
leaves the application for bail to the sound discretion of the court. Thus, in Villanueva v. Judge Buaya, therein
respondent judge was held administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law for granting an exparte
motion for bail without conducting a hearing.
a. A fortiori, respondent is administratively liable for gross ignorance of the law for granting ex parte
motions to allow Adama's temporary liberty without setting the same for hearing. If hearing is
indispensable in motions for bail, more so in this case where the motions for the temporary liberty
of Adamas were filed without offering any bail or without any prayer that he be released on
recognizance.
4. We have held time and again that a judge is called upon to exhibit more than just a cursory acquaintance
with statutes and procedural rules. It is imperative that he be conversant with basic legal principles and be
aware of well-settled authoritative doctrines. He should strive for excellence exceeded only by his passion
for truth, to the end that he be the personification of justice and the rule of law. When the law is sufficiently
basic, a judge owes it to his office to simply apply it; anything less than that would be gross ignorance of
the law. (Balanay v. Judge White, 2016)

Sanctity of the Halls of Justice


1. The court and its premises shall be used exclusively for court or judicial functions and not for any other
purpose. As temples of justice, their dignity and sanctity must be preserved at all times.
2. Indeed, the holding of a raffle draw at the Argao Hall of Justice by the staff of Sara Lee degraded the honor
and dignity of the court and exposed the premises, as well as the judicial records to danger of loss or
damage. In Administrative Circular No. 3-92, we have already reminded all judges and court personnel

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JCT Jurisprudence Notes on Legal and Judicial Ethics
A Doctrinal Compilation of Del Castillo and Latest Decisions
Prepared by: Jose Angelo Tiglao

that the Halls of Justice may be used only for purposes directly related to the functioning and operation of
the courts of justice, and may not be devoted to any other use.
3. A careful reading of the paragraph shows the Courts categorical statement that the Halls of Justice are to
be used only for court purposes and for no other purpose, despite the use of the word may, which the
respondents and the investigating judge argue as permissive and not mandatory. The mention of
residential and commercial purposes are used as concrete examples since such instances actually happened
x x x and were in fact the subject of administrative cases, and are thus enumerated, not to exclude other
acts (as clearly indicated by the word least of all prior to the enumeration) but rather to illustrate the general
prohibition. Thus, the argument that the raffle draw event was not residential nor commercial (despite the
erudite distinction made by the respondents as to what is commercial and what is not) deserves scant
consideration. (Plaza v. Amamio, 2010)

Inappropriate Meeting in Chambers


1. The Code recognizes that even acts that are not per se improper can nevertheless be perceived by the larger
community as such. "Be it stressed that judges are held to higher standards of integrity and ethical conduct
than attorneys and other persons not [vested] with public trust."
2. Indeed, the New Code of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary exhorts members of the judiciary,
in the discharge of their duties, to be models of propriety at all times.
3. Sections 1 and 6, Canon 4 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct states:

CANON 4 | PROPRIETY
Propriety and the appearance of propriety are essential to the performance of all the activities of a judge.

SECTION 1. Judges shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities.

xxxx

SECTION 6. Judges, like any other citizen, are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and
assembly, but in exercising such rights, they shall always conduct themselves in such a manner as to
preserve the dignity of the judicial office and the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary.

4. The above provisions clearly enjoin judges not only from committing acts of impropriety but even acts
which have the appearance of impropriety.
a. It is reprehensible for a judge to humiliate a lawyer, litigant or witness. The act betrays lack of
patience, prudence and restraint. Thus, a judge must at all times be temperate in his language. He
must choose his words, written or spoken, with utmost care and sufficient control. The wise and
just man is esteemed for his discernment. Pleasing speech increases his persuasiveness.
5. It is reprehensible for a judge to humiliate a lawyer, litigant or witness. The act betrays lack of patience,
prudence and restraint. Thus, a judge must at all times be temperate in his language. He must choose his
words, written or spoken, with utmost care and sufficient control. The wise and just man is esteemed for
his discernment. Pleasing speech increases his persuasiveness. (Benancillo v. Judge Amila, 2011)

Grave Abuse of Discretion


1. An act will be struck down for having been done with grave abuse of discretion only when the abuse of
discretion is patent and gross.
2. Grave abuse of discretion "implies a capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment that is equivalent to
lack of jurisdiction, or where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion,
prejudice or personal aversion amounting to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform
the duty enjoined, or to act at all in contemplation of law. (Estate of Maninang v. CA, 2011)

Contempt of Court
1. While there are remedies available to a party adjudged in contempt of court, same may only be availed of
when the procedures laid down for its availment are satisfied.

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2. Contemptuous statements made in pleadings filed with the court constitute direct contempt.
3. A pleading x x x containing derogatory, offensive or malicious statements submitted to the court or judge
in which the proceedings are pending x x x has been held to be equivalent to misbehavior committed in the
presence of or so near a court or judge as to interrupt the proceedings before the same within the meaning
of Rule 71, 1 of the Rules of Court and, therefore, constitutes direct contempt. (Cruz v. Judge Gingoyon, 2011)
4. Section 2, Rule 71 of the Rules of Court provides:

Section 2. Remedy therefrom. The person adjudged in direct contempt by any court may not appeal
therefrom, but may avail himself of the remedies of certiorari or prohibition. The execution of the
judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition, provided such person files a
bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and
perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him.

Procedural Lapses to Give Way to Substantial Justice


1. Aware that petitioners are not represented by counsel, the CA could have been more prudent by giving
petitioners time to engage the services of a lawyer or at least by reminding them of the importance of
retaining one. It is worthy to mention at this point that the right to counsel, being intertwined with the right
to due process, is guaranteed by the Constitution to any person whether the proceeding is administrative,
civil or criminal. The CA should have extended some degree of liberality so as to give the party a chance to
prove their cause with a lawyer to represent or to assist them.
2. n line with this and as the right of counsel is absolute and may be invoked at all times, we required
petitioners to enter the appearance of a counsel. Upon petitioners manifestation of their failure to secure
the services of a counsel due to financial constraints, the Court resolved to appoint a counsel de oficio to
assist them in litigating their case.
3. It bears stressing that the dismissal of an employee’s appeal on purely technical ground is inconsistent with
the constitutional mandate on protection to labor. The Court has often set aside the strict application of
procedural technicalities to serve the broader interest of substantial justice. (Polsotin v. De Guia Enterprises,
2011)

Misconduct by Court Personnel and Public Officers


1. The duty of a process server is vital to the administration of justice. A process servers primary duty is to
serve court notices which precisely requires utmost care on his part by ensuring that all notices assigned to
him are duly served on the parties.[10] Unjustified delay in performing this task constitutes neglect of duty
and warrants the imposition of administrative sanctions.
2. All employees in the judiciary should be examples of responsibility, competence and efficiency. As Process
Server, Dela Cruz ought to be aware of the importance to serve the court processes with dispatch. It is
through the process server that defendants learn of the action brought against them by the complainant.
More important, it is also through the service of summons by the process server that the trial court acquires
jurisdiction over the defendant. It is therefore important that summonses, other writs and court processes
be served expeditiously.
a. Besides, heavy workload is not an adequate excuse to be remiss in the diligent performance of ones
public duties as a public servant. Otherwise, every government employee charged with negligence
and dereliction of duty will always use this as a convenient excuse to escape punishment to the
great prejudice of public service.
b. In this instance, we find Dela Cruz guilty of simple neglect of duty for the delay in the service of
the subject Order.
3. This Court has defined dishonesty as the 'disposition to lie, cheat, deceive, or defraud; untrustworthiness;
lack of integrity; lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle; lack of fairness and straightforwardness;
disposition to defraud, deceive or betray.'
4. Dishonesty is not simply bad judgment or negligence. Dishonesty is a question of intention.
5. In ascertaining the intention of a person accused of dishonesty, consideration must be taken not only of the
facts and circumstances which gave rise to the act committed by the respondent, but also of his state of
mind at the time the offense was committed, the time he might have had at his disposal for the purpose of

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meditating on the consequences of his act, and the degree of reasoning he could have had at that moment.
(Judge Joaquin v. De la Cruz, 2012)
6. Immorality has been defined to include not only sexual matters but also "conducts inconsistent with
rectitude, or indicative of corruption, indecency, depravity, and dissoluteness; or is willful, flagrant or
shameless conduct showing moral indifference to opinions of respectable members of the community, and
an inconsiderate attitude toward good order and public welfare.
a. In this case, Ramos showed his moral indifference to the opinions of respectable members of the
community by attempting to rationalize his illicit relationship with Jenelita. However, such
attempt fails as this Court agrees with the OCA that the justifications proffered by Ramos are
inconsequential, distorted and misplaced.
7. The illicit relationship between a married man and a woman not his wife will remain illicit notwithstanding
the lapse of considerable number of years they have been living together. Passage of time does not
legitimize illicit relationship; neither does other people's perceived tolerance or acquiescence or
indifference toward such relationship.
a. Indeed, Ramos has long been living an immoral life and his distorted belief that he has not been
doing so puts in question his sense of morality, or the standard of morality he lives by.
8. An officer of the court, and any employee thereof for that matter, should be above reproach. The very
existence of the court, the institution we represent, is anchored on upholding what is true, right and just.
That is why we require nothing less than the highest standard of morality and decency for each and every
member, from the highest official to the lowest of the rank and file, to preserve the good name and integrity
of courts of justice, lest we be deemed unworthy to represent this honorable institution. (P02 Gabriel v.
Sheriff Ramos, 2013)
9. Clerks of Court are the custodians of the courts 'funds and revenues, records, properties, and premises.'
They are 'liable for any loss, shortage, destruction or impairment' of those entrusted to them. Any shortages
in the amounts to be remitted and the delay in the actual remittance 'constitute gross neglect of duty for
which the clerk of court shall be held administratively liable.
a. In the Office of the Court Administrator v. Acampado, the Court declared that any shortages in the
amounts to be remitted and the delay in the actual remittance thereof constitute gross neglect of
duty for which the clerk of court shall be held administratively liable.
b. Moreover, in the Office of the Court Administrator v. Melchor, Jr., it was held that delayed remittance
of cash collections constitutes gross neglect of duty because this omission deprives the court of
interest that could have been earned if the amounts were deposited in the authorized depository
bank.
10. Gross neglect is such neglect which, from the gravity of the case or the frequency of instances, becomes so
serious in its character as to endanger or threaten the public welfare. (OCA v. Guan, 2015)
11. Misconduct has been defined "as 'a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, more
particularly, unlawful behavior or gross negligence by a public officer.' The misconduct is grave if it
involves any of the additional elements of corruption, willful intent to violate the law, or to disregard
established rules, which must be established by substantial evidence."
12. Dishonesty, on the other hand, "has been defined as a disposition to lie, cheat, deceive or defraud. It implies
untrustworthiness, lack of integrity, lack of honesty, probity or integrity in principle on the part of the
individual who failed to exercise fairness and straightforwardness in his or her dealings."
a. In Rojas, Jr. v. Mina, the respondent therein was found guilty of gross misconduct and dishonesty
for stealing and encashing the checks payable to trial court judges without their knowledge and
consent.
13. As head of the Judicial Records Division, and involved in the administration of justice, respondent "ought
to live up to the strictest standards of honesty and integrity in public service." Indeed, "no position demands
greater moral righteousness and uprightness from its holder than an office in the judiciary. Court
employees should be models of uprightness, fairness and honesty to maintain the people's respect and faith
in the judiciary."
a. "Any conduct, act or omission on the part of those who would violate the norm of public
accountability and diminish or even just tend to diminish the faith of the people in the judiciary
shall not be countenanced."

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14. Resignation from the service will not extricate court employees from the consequences of their acts. It is
settled that the cessation from office neither warrants the dismissal of the administrative complaint filed
against the respondents while they were still in the service nor does it render the case moot and academic.
a. A contrary rule would be fraught with injustices and pregnant with dreadful and dangerous
implications as nothing would prevent a corrupt and unscrupulous government employee from
committing abuses and other condemnable acts knowing fully well that they would soon be
beyond the pale of the law and immune to all administrative penalties. The only effect of
respondent's resignation is that it rendered moot the imposition of the penalty of dismissal. (OCA
v. Abarentos, 2015)
15. Court employees, from the presiding judge to the lowliest clerk, being public servants in an office
dispensing justice, should always act with a high degree of professionalism and responsibility. Their
conduct must not only be characterized by propriety and decorum, but must also be in accordance with
the law and court regulations. No position demands greater moral righteousness and uprightness from its
holder than an office in the judiciary. Court employees should be models of uprightness, fairness and
honesty to maintain the people's respect and faith in the judiciary. They should avoid any act or conduct
that would diminish public trust and confidence in the courts. Indeed, those connected with dispensing
justice bear a heavy burden of responsibility. (Garingan-Ferreras v. Umblas, 2017)

Civil Service Commission and Mass Appointments


1. The integrity and reliability of our civil service is, perhaps, never more sorely tested than in the
impassioned demagoguery of elections. Amidst the struggle of personalities, ideologies, and platforms, the
vigor and resilience of a professional civil service can only be preserved where our laws ensure that
partisanship plays no part in the appointing process. Consequently, we affirm the validity of a regulation
issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC or the Commission) intended to ensure that appointments
and promotions in the civil service are made solely on the basis of qualifications, instead of political
loyalties or patronage.
2. The Commission, as the central personnel agency of the government, has statutory authority to establish
rules and regulations to promote efficiency and professionalism in the civil service.
3. It is true that there is no constitutional prohibition against the issuance of "mass appointments" by defeated
local government officials prior to the expiration of their terms. Clearly, this is not the same as a "midnight
appointment," proscribed by the Constitution, which refers to those appointments made within two
months immediately prior to the next presidential election.
4. We, however, hasten to add that the aforementioned ruling does not mean that the raison d' etre behind
the prohibition against midnight appointments may not be applied to those made by chief executives of
local government units, as here. Indeed, the prohibition is precisely designed to discourage, nay, even
preclude, losing candidates from issuing appointments merely for partisan purposes thereby depriving the
incoming administration of the opportunity to make the corresponding appointments in line with its new
policies.
5. Indeed, not all appointments issued after the elections by defeated officials are invalid. CSC Resolution No.
010988 does not purport to nullify all "mass appointments." However, it must be shown that the
appointments have undergone the regular screening process, that the appointee is qualified, that there is a
need to fill up the vacancy immediately, and that the appointments are not in bulk.
a. Each appointment must be judged on the basis of the nature, character, and merits of the individual
appointment and the circumstances surrounding the same. It is only when the appointments were
made en masse by the outgoing administration and shown to have been made through hurried
maneuvers and under circumstances departing from good faith, morality, and propriety that this
Court has struck down "midnight" appointments. (Nazareno v. City of Dumaguete, 2009)

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