CASE BRIEF 2005-0985

CASE: Office of the Court Administrator (In connection with G.R. No. 139519) vs. Judge Maximo G.W. Paderanga, Regional Trial Court, Branch 38, Misamis Oriental, Cagayan de Oro City [ADM. MATTER NO. RTJ-01-1660 August 25, 2005]

PONENTE: Austria-Martinez, J.:

SUBJECT:

  1. Administrative Law – Affidavit of Desistance: effect; Misconduct.
  2. Code of Judicial Conduct – Canon 3: Adjudicative Responsibilities.

FACTS:        In the case entitled Conchito J. Oclarit vs. Judge Maximo G.W. Paderanga, Judge, Regional Trial Court, Misamis Oriental (See: Case BrieF No. 2001-0064), the Supreme Court ordered the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) to file an administrative charge against Judge  Paderanga for gross misconduct and grave abuse of authority. In that case, Judge Paderanga denied the motion of Atty. Oclarit to approve compromise agreement entered into by the parties before a barangay captain. When Atty. Oclarit persisted in explaining that the judge should grant the same, Judge Paderanga shouted successively at him to ‘shut up.’ When atty. Oclarit insisted in making his explanation, the court declared him in direct contempt, to the extent of stating that the judge had ‘absolute power.’  

In compliance with the directive of the Court, a complaint was filed charging Judge Paderanga with gross misconduct and grave abuse of authority.

In a resolution issued by the Court, it referred the administrative case to Justice Magdangal M. de Leon of the CA for investigation, report and recommendation.

In conformity with the directive of this Court, Justice de Leon set the case for preliminary conference and required the parties to submit their pre-trial briefs.

Judge Paderanga and private complainant Atty. Oclarit submitted their pre-trial briefs, respectively. In his brief, Judge Paderanga manifested his willingness to enter into an amicable settlement or alternative mode of dispute resolution.

Thereafter, Atty. Oclarit submitted a Manifestation with an attached Affidavit of Desistance explaining his desire to be permitted to desist from pursuing the complaint against Judge Paderanga.

The following day, Judge Paderanga filed his own Manifestation with Motion indicating that he and private complainant Oclarit “have come to terms and thus, without going further into the merits of the case, in their honest intention in good faith to have peace of mind, have expressed their desire and decided to put an amicable closure to their controversy.”

ISSUES:

  1. Whether the execution of the affidavit of desistance by the private complainant ipso facto results to the dismissal of the administrative case.
  2. Whether Judge Paderanga is guilty of grave abuse of authority.
  3. Whether Judge Paderanga is guilty of gross misconduct.

RULING:
1. The withdrawal of the complaint or the execution of an affidavit of desistance does not automatically result in the dismissal of the instant administrative case. Thus, we have held in Pineda vs. Pinto [A.M. No. RTJ-04-1851, October 13, 2004] that:

“an affidavit of desistance by a complainant in an administrative case against a member of the judiciary does not divest the Supreme Court of its jurisdiction to investigate the matters alleged in the complaint or otherwise to wield its disciplinary authority because the Court has an interest in the conduct and behavior of its officials and employees and in ensuring the prompt delivery of justice to the people. Its efforts in that direction cannot thus be frustrated by any private arrangement of the parties. Neither can the disciplinary power of this Court be made to depend on a complainant’s whims. To rule otherwise would undermine the discipline of court officials and personnel.”

2. There is nothing on record to prove Atty. Oclarit’s contumacious behavior towards Judge Paderanga or the office or court he represents. In fact, Judge Paderanga himself, in his Comment, admits that “the proceedings xxx started rather cordially, and went on with no discernible or perceptible recriminations.” Judge Paderanga further acknowledges that “there were no recriminatory retorts, much less, serious diatribes thrown either way between Atty. Oclarit and respondent, or between Atty. Oclarit and Atty. Bacal….”  Nonetheless, Judge Paderanga claimed that his patience and forbearance were stretched to the hilt because of “Atty. Oclarit’s act of discourtesy towards the court” which consisted of his persistent interruptions while Judge Paderanga was talking. Granting that Atty. Oclarit may indeed have committed acts of discourtesy towards the court, we likewise agree with Justice de Leon that these acts do not justify Judge Paderanga from immediately resorting to his contempt powers, without even giving Atty. Oclarit the benefit of a warning, considering that the penalty imposed was deprivation of liberty in addition to fine. It has time and again been stressed that besides the basic equipment of possessing the requisite learning in the law, a magistrate must exhibit that hallmark judicial temperament of utmost sobriety and self-restraint which are indispensable qualities of every judge. A judge anywhere should be the last person to be perceived as a petty tyrant holding imperious sway over his domain.

Indeed, Rule 3.04 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states that:

“A judge should be patient, attentive and courteous to all lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court. A judge should avoid unconsciously falling into the attitude of mind that the litigants are made for the courts instead of the courts for the litigants.”

Judge Paderanga’s act of unceremoniously citing Atty. Oclarit in contempt while declaring himself as having “absolute power” is a clear evidence of his unjustified use of the authority vested upon him by law. He has lost sight of the fact that the power to cite persons in contempt is at his disposal for purposes that are impersonal, because that power is intended as a safeguard not for the judges as persons but for the functions that they exercise. Judge Paderanga is guilty of grave abuse of authority.

3. Judge Paderanga is guilty of simple misconduct. Misconduct is defined as any unlawful conduct on the part of a person concerned in the administration of justice prejudicial to the rights of parties or to the right determination of the cause. It generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose.  Judge Paderanga may not be held guilty of gross misconduct because the term “gross” connotes something “out of all measure; beyond allowance; not to be excused; flagrant; shameful.” In the present case, Judge Paderanga’s actuations, while condemnable, are not totally inexcusable as he has also been provoked by the seemingly defiant attitude of Atty. Oclarit. Hence, this Court only finds him guilty of simple misconduct.

The Fallo
Judge Paderanga is REPRIMANDED and STERNLY WARNED that repetition of the same or similar acts shall be dealt with more severely.

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THINGS DECIDED:

A)      The withdrawal of the complaint or the execution of an affidavit of desistance does not automatically result in the dismissal of the instant administrative case.

B)       A judge should be patient, attentive and courteous to all lawyers, especially the inexperienced, to litigants, witnesses, and others appearing before the court.

C)       Misconduct is defined as any unlawful conduct on the part of a person concerned in the administration of justice prejudicial to the rights of parties or to the right determination of the cause. It generally means wrongful, improper or unlawful conduct motivated by a premeditated, obstinate or intentional purpose. 

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