Saturday, May 9, 2015

Rating the performance of judges | Sun.Star

See - Malilong: Rating the performance of judges | Sun.Star

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MANY years ago, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had a project, called “profile-taking” that allowed lawyers to rate the performance of judges and other officers involved in the administration of justice, including labor arbiters.
It was a survey not unlike the ones periodically conducted by the Social Weather Station and by Pulse Asia, and it was meant to establish a feedback mechanism through which judges were made aware of their trust and performance ratings by their single biggest constituency: the bar.
In order to not unduly embarrass a judge, his ratings were made available only to him although it was not uncommon for some, especially those who received a glowing endorsement from the lawyers, to share their “grades” with their colleagues in the bench.
It was not perfect – which survey is? – but it was a good enough performance measurement system. It allowed the judges and the others to make appropriate adjustments on the quality of their decisions and their courtroom behavior, among others, all of which contribute to improving the administration of justice.
Unfortunately, while some judges welcomed the survey, there were others who vehemently opposed it. The main objection was that the judging by lawyers was prone to bias because of the reality that for every winning and presumably happy advocate, there is a corresponding sore and losing one.
But there was no attempt to portray the profile-taking as immune to the respondent’s individual personal feelings. In fact, the lawyers were basically asked about their opinions and, expectedly, some gave theirs quite strongly either in praise of an outstanding judge or fiscal or in their disappointment with or dislike of a particular judicial or quasi-judicial officer. During my term as IBP president for example, a labor arbiter was rated zero by more than 10 lawyers even if the instruction was for them to choose a grade of from 60 to 100.
I’d like to believe, however, that most of us acted fairly in giving our grades. We did not allow one lost case to influence our judgment because after all, losing is fact of life for every legal practitioner.
But the objecting judges could not be placated. One of them, if I recall correctly, was heard asking the lawyers, “who are you to judge us?” Fearing a confrontation with the bench, the IBP beat a hasty retreat and abandoned the project. That was many years ago.
How are the judges, the fiscals and the labor arbiters now? Or, perhaps more accurately, how do the lawyers look at them?
I haven’t appeared in court as frequently as I had when I was a younger practitioner but I oftentimes talk to those who toil regularly in the so-called temples of justice. I am happy to say that from my conversations with them, negative sentiment against judges and prosecutors is negligible. It seems that Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno and Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima have been successful in weeding out the corrupt and the incompetent from their offices.
I wish I could say the same about the labor arbiters but, to use a lawyer’s bread-and-butter expression, because of my limited labor law practice, I have “no sufficient knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth or falsity” of any claim or allegation on the state of things in that agency.
Morever, some of the arbiters are new, I was told, including a certain Marie Angelica Felizco-Padrid, so it would not be fair to judge them.
But I urge the Integrated Bar, especially the Cebu City Chapter headed by Bebs Pascual, to reinstitute the profile-taking. Like I said, it may not be perfect but we need a performance measurement system if we are serious about helping in the administration of justice.
Who was it who said that what cannot be measured cannot be managed and what cannot be managed cannot succeed?
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 09, 2015.
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