By J. Noel G. Tijam
Except with respect to authors, legal authorities and publications
cited, the characters depicted in this article are fictional. Any
similarity to actual lawyers and judges alluded to is unintentional<
is an irreverent story about an anxious married woman who consulted
her doctor and asked nervously- “ Doctor, can I get pregnant if
I engage in Anal sex? “. The Doctor, without blinking an eye,
replied – “ Of course, where do you think lawyers and
judges come from?”.
and Lawyers are not very popular and yet people seek them when they
are in trouble. Based on public perception, judges are considered
insensitive, uncaring and impersonal. For good reason, magistrates
are trained not to be judgmental and to have an open mind.
and judges have a long history of a love/hate relationship. A
lawyer’s admiration for the judge depends entirely on the
success or failure of his case in court. A judge would resent lawyers
upstaging them inside the courtroom. The relationship is nonetheless
symbiotic because one cannot exist without the other.
is often said that a lawyer will do anything to win a case.
Sometimes, he will even tell the truth. And it takes a long time to
learn that a courtroom is the last place in the world for learning
the truth. (Alice Koller) This is the solitary predicament of a judge
exposed to opposing litigants both claiming a monopoly of the truth.
I was a trial court judge, the courtroom was replete with people who
lie, prevaricate and most often evade the truth. Some witnesses
were less truthful while others tended to embellish their testimony.
The transcript of stenographic notes is a monument of countless
perjury committed in the courtroom.
do not enjoy being in court. This is probably the reason why
judges, as a rule, are never considered likable or amiable.
| He is too slow.
|| He acts with indecent haste. || He is too strict.
|| He is arrogant.
|| He is always late.
|| He speaks broken English.
|| He is unreasonable.
|| He is meddlesome.
|| He talks too much.
|| He preaches needlessly.
|| He is corrupt.
|| He does not know the law.
|| He is too lenient.
|| He dresses sloppily.
|| He does not know the case.
are just some of the grievances, not entirely unfounded, that some
lawyers and litigants feel about certain judges.
have been told accounts of court proceedings made more memorable not
by the parties or the cases but by the judges presiding over them.
judge was legendary for her supposed outbursts in open court,
prompting a lawyer on one occasion to say, “I would like to
make it of record that the judge is glaring at me.” When a
lawyer declared: “ I would like to call the attention of the
court”, the Judge cut him off and shouted- “ You do not
call the attention of the Court, You invite his attention!”.
one case, a judge barked at a lawyer, saying, “Are you trying
to show your contempt for the Court.” The lawyer, trying to be
circumspect, replied: “No your honor, I’m doing my best
to conceal it.”
lawyers simply cannot exclude from this roster of unforgettable
judges, those who have virtually become, in the words of Rafael
Sabatini, “pretentiousness incarnate,” whose massive egos
fail to correspond to their judicial competence.
his book Disorder in the Court, Charles M. Sevilla published some of
the most amusing declarations made by judges, including the
I interrupt for a moment? There seems to be a member of our audience
who is mouthing obscenities at our witness and other things, and I
would like that she be admonished.
Court: All obscenities must be directed to the Court. You may
Counsel: Thank you, Your Honor.
Q: Did the mother tell
you that the child had been lying to her?
Counsel: Objection. Hearsay.
Court: I will sustain the objection. Just tell us what she
said to you.
DA: Well, to use the vernacular,
I’ve been screwed by judges when I assumed that –
The Court: Mr. DA, you’re
not my type, so don’t worry about it.
DA: Thank you, Your Honor.
The Presumption of Innocence
I’m perfecting the record because it is my position
that the court incorrectly instructed the jury.
Court: You show me the authority to that effect.
Counsel: That presumption means
that the defendant is, in fact, innocent as he sits there.
Court: That’s an impossibility for anyone to believe
that, if he was innocent, he was sitting there. There would be no
need for a trial.
is stories such as these that make us realize that judges are after
all human beings who have their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities
and subject to human frailties.
is precisely because of these occasional slip-ups and unintentional
blunders that jokes about judges, like lawyer jokes, continue to
circulate. One such joke went:
Witness: Yes, I am a call girl.
Attorney: Do you know the fiscal?
Is he one of your customers?
Witness: Yes, of course!
Attorney: How about the chief-of-police,
is he also one of your customers?
Witness: Yes, of course!
Judge: Counsel, you approach the bench!
(When the lawyer was already near the judge -)
ever ask her if she knows me, or else I will hold
you in contempt for embarrassing the administration of justice!
people, however, believe that judges must be capable of reigning in
those frailties because they are supposed to be the embodiment of
justice. They believe that if a judge is to be called, “Your
Honor,” he must act respectably at all times. If he is to
decide a case, he must completely know the law. If he is to preside
over a case, he must show patience and courtesy to the lawyers and
litigants and not act as an anointed god of the judicial realm.
Humanity is simply not an excuse because no one had forced him to
occupy such position of power and responsibility.
agree that a judge must be both competent and honorable. I agree that
he must be able to overcome his weaknesses, keep his equanimity
during court proceedings, maintain an image of impartiality and
independence, and be efficient in the disposition of cases. One must,
however, understand the peculiarities, pressures and difficulties of
the work of a judge. It is no walk in the park.
judge has to hear cases morning and afternoon, and in the process,
deal with a myriad personalities – the good, the bad and the
insufferable. Afterwards, he has to act on motions and other
incidents put forward by the parties. He has to read transcripts,
weigh evidence, and search for applicable laws and jurisprudence,
before finally drafting the order or decision which he must then
promulgate within the period set by the Supreme Court. The task
becomes even harder when both parties offer convincing arguments in
support of their respective positions, presenting “a clash of
right and another right.” Sometimes, too, the truth seems
elusive as the judge’s evaluation is confined to the facts as
presented to him in court which may not completely show the events as
they actually happened. Added to the judge’s responsibilities
is his duty as administrator of his court and supervisor to his
staff. Indeed, when they described judgeship as an occupation
burdened with much responsibility, they were not joking. This,
however, is not meant to excuse a judge’s shortcomings, but it
may help temper the severity of criticisms thrown at judges who
falter but had exerted their best.
is important for the public, especially the litigants, to understand
that adjudication is not an exact science. There is no precise
formula to arrive at the perfect decision. As former Court
Administrator Ernani Cruz Paño said, “Because the judge
must deal with human beings, and must administer justice in
accordance with law, availing himself with very human
instrumentalities, perfect and absolute justice cannot be expected
nor be demanded from courts of law. This is not an ideal that can be
imposed upon the judicial process. As Justice Frankfurter says, in
deciding between the alternatives open to them, the judges only try
to make the just or juster choice. A trial is not an exercise in
logical perfection. Nonetheless, a judge can at least approximate the
aspirations of a community and reduce if not totally eliminate the
anxieties of society by not forgetting that the judiciary is the
guardian of the conscience of the people as well as the law of the
land, as so succinctly phrased by Justice Douglas.”
it seems unfair to label the court unreasonably strict because it
chose to adhere to reglementary periods and other formal requirements
which the rules specifically demand. It is equally unfair to call the
judge arrogant if he stands firm on what he thinks is just. And it is
but right for the judge to remind lawyers appearing before them to
dress and act in a manner befitting their status as officers of the
in his career in the judiciary, a judge would realize that his job is
not to please people. In the process of doing his job, he may incur
the litigants’ displeasure and ire. His good faith would
preserve for him his integrity and absolve him in the court of public
late, I was told that upon hearing my name, a lady lawyer recounted
the time she appeared before my court when I was still an RTC judge
in Quezon City. She reportedly expressed her admiration for me,
saying that I was good looking, that my voice was a rich and
captivating baritone, and that I spoke well in open court. (Words of
admiration not supplied.) She also recalled that I had rendered a
good decision favorable to her case. I wondered – would she
have been less enthralled by my supposed good looks and enchanting
voice had she received an unfavorable judgment from my court?
the final analysis, the true measure of a judge’s success is
not the number of litigants who are happy with his decision; one
party is bound to win in most instances while the other party may be
seething in frustration. Fallible as we are, mistakes could be made
along the way to adjudicative precision, if such precision is even
attainable. As in most things for which we are to be judged, the test
lies in the intent – was it principle or justice that motivated
the judge to decide a certain way or was it something more worldly.
It has been said that it is better for a judge to have no firm grasp
of the law, than to have such grasp but deliberately misapply it.
am, thus, reminded of what Justice Vicente V. Mendoza said when he
addressed a group of aspirants for the bench sometime ago. According
to him, “(t)he real authority of a judge is moral, and the
source of that authority is the character of the judge.” He
added: “Indeed, you render what you believe to be a decision
that is good from all points of view of the law, but if you have no
moral authority, because people do not believe in you, your much
learning will have little, if any, weight.
the other hand, if you have moral authority, people will forgive
(you) for those little mistakes that – because you are all too
human – you may make because they know that the mistake is not
a mistake of the heart but only of the mind.”