Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Acts of a judge in his official capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous.

Equatorial v. Anunciacion, En Banc, A.M. No. MTJ-91-562,  October 16, 1997

"X x x.
Although said order was subsequently set aside by the Regional Trial Court  and the Court of Appeals, nevertheless, its issuance was an exercise of  judicial discretion coupled with the fact that complainant adduced no evidence to prove that it was motivated by bad faith.  
[Bad] faith does not simply connote bad judgment or negligence; it imports a dishonest purpose or some moral obliquity and conscious doing of wrong; it means breach of a known duty thru some motive or interest or ill will x x x.[6] In this case, respondent’s order can hardly be considered as evidence of bad faith under the circumstances.  In fact, there was testimony to the effect that complainant tried to justify the increased rental. Granting that it was erroneous, it is presumed to have been issued in good faith in the absence of proof to the contrary.[7]
This Court reiterates the legal doctrine that, as a matter of public policy, the acts of a judge in his official capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though such acts are erroneous.  Good faith and absence of malice, corrupt motives or improper considerations are sufficient defenses in which a judge charged with ignorance of the law can find refuge.[8]
As to the imputation of partiality in the rendition of respondent’s decision dismissing the amended complaint, that can, at best, be considered as speculative. No evidence may be gleaned from the records to prove that respondent favored Albert Ng in his decision.  If at all, the imputation of partiality is a mere suspicion.  Mere suspicion that a judge is partial to one of the parties is not enough to subject him to disciplinary action by this Court.[9]
In any case, the filing of this administrative case should not have been complainant’s remedy.  This Court agrees with the Office of the Court Administrator, thus:
 “x x x  If complainant was prejudiced thereby, its remedy lies with the proper court for the proper judicial action and not with this Office.  An appeal of the decision to the Court of Appeals would have been appropriate.  It puzzles Us why this was not done, despite the tenability of complainant’s legal position.  In any case, complainant has failed to prove nor do we believe that any error committed by respondent Judge was motivated by any improper consideration.”[10]
Furthermore, a judge is not administratively accountable for every erroneous ruling or decision rendered provided he acts in good faith and without malice.  The proper remedy of the aggrieved party is not an administrative charge against the judge but an appeal or petition for review of his decision.[11]
X x x."