Monday, July 20, 2015

How cases are decided | Inquirer Opinion

See - How cases are decided | Inquirer Opinion

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Judging cases on their merit. In general, how do judges, not necessarily of the Philippines, decide cases? To be sure, there are different schools of thought. The most common is the analytical school popularized by John Austin. It posits that a decision is simply the result of applying the law to a given set of facts, expressed in the formula, facts times law equals decision, or F x L = D.
Thus, if the facts show that Pedro killed Juan, the judge simply applies the law on homicide by sentencing the killer to jail. Many times, however, the facts are not plainly proven by the evidence. And even if the facts are indubitable, the law may not be clear. The analytical theory cannot fully explain how a judgment is reached when complicated issues are involved.

On the other hand, the sociological school led by Harvard Dean Roscoe Pound holds that a decision is the result of a number of stimuli being applied to the personality of a judge, expressed in the formula, stimuli times personality equals decision, or S x P = D.

Under this formula, the law and the facts are the two main stimuli, but there are others like the dire consequences of a decision on the public interest, or illness that could warp the thinking of a judge, or what I call the “plague of ships”—kinship, relationship, friendship and fellowship.

The personality of a judge refers to his/her education, training, intelligence, legal philosophy, passion for accuracy, industry, integrity, character, prior opinions and writings, etc. Pound looked at law as social engineering, not as a mathematical tool.

Procedure in judging. Process-wise, how do our justices decide cases? The complete answer is in the 38-page “Internal Rules of the Supreme Court.” Briefly, however, every petition or appeal is raffled, upon its receipt, to a “member-in-charge” (MIC) who determines whether the case should be handled by the banc (all 15 justices) or by one of the three court divisions (of five justices each).

The MIC then prepares a summary of the facts, issues and arguments presented by the petitioner, and recommends either to dismiss the petition outright for utter lack of merit, or to require a comment from the respondents. The MIC also recommends whether to grant a temporary restraining order.

After receipt of the comment, the Court, upon the MIC’s recommendation, may dismiss the petition via a resolution, or require—in a few cases—oral argument, or ask the parties to submit written memoranda.

After receipt of the memoranda, the MIC submits a report on how the case should be disposed of. Deliberations follow. If the justices agree with the recommendation, the MIC then prepares the decision. Should the justices, by majority vote, disagree, another justice is assigned to write the decision and the MIC submits a dissent. Other justices may write concurring or dissenting opinions.

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