Lessening big number of cases submitted for decision

OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide () - August 10, 2008 - 12:00am

When the judicial system of a given country works efficiently, the confidence of its people in the ability of their government to rule justly is also a given. And peace reigns. On the other hand, where to the mind of the governed justice is elusive, the clouds of turmoil always lurk in the horizon.

I speak in those general terms in the light of the news item last week on the huge number of cases now pending resolution in our courts of law. There is no doubt that the volume of cases yet to be decided by our judges has had always been among the factors in the slow grind of our justice. It adds to the general unease of many citizens because when decisions come only after prolonged periods of time, the feeling of justice delayed being justice denied finds  its root.

Of course, it is a blessing to our province that many of our judges here are both honorable and competent. Our faith in them diminishes the anxiety of injustice ever being handed down. Along this thought, I remember one lecture of the late Sen. Jose W. Diokno to aspiring trial advocates. He said that one good way to winning cases is to make sure that one's case is going to be tried by a judge 'who knows' which, as he explained further, was to mean the judges knowing their law and applying it fairly.

Indeed, if only to strengthen our democratic systems, the number of pending cases has to be addressed now. Cases need be decided ASAP. Quite ironically, this is a problem the solution of which principally lies beyond our judges. At the pain of sounding sip-sip to the bench, our crop of judges is the finest in many years. They are doing their best to resolve as many cases as they can. But, believe me, the kind of herculean efforts our judges are capable of may still not likely dent on the increasing number of piling cases.

What then is one solution? Our legislature, starting with our learned congressmen here, needs to pass a law creating special courts. In Cebu for example, there should be added to the current number of courts new judicial branches.

The burden of hearing party-litigants and listening to their pieces of evidence should continue to be the concern of the existing tribunals. These new courts shall not be given cases to try. Precisely, they should be freed of this time consuming responsibility. Their only function is to read and read the records of these cases which have long been submitted for resolution and decide them quickly and judiciously. It helps to  speed up the resolution that they do not know the parties.

The special judges should serve for a specific length of time of say, five years. Prior to their assumption of office, they must be thoroughly educated of the specific nature of engagement. While enjoying their tenure, they have to meet a quota of so many cases to be decided in, say, one month. Those unable to meet the demands of the number of resolution have to yield their post. Those capable of meeting the numerical requirement, should, at the end of their service period, be retired. They too must be rewarded handsomely.

Many of the lawyers who are engaged in private practice do not feel comfortable with the salary scales of the government. I am not saying that those in our judiciary are not well paid because, I believe that most of our present judges have in their hearts more the happy thought of being able to dispense justice than to gain the world. To entice these trial advocates into accepting the tedious jobs of being special judges, they should be paid well.

How much is an attractive salary for special judges? That will be for lawmakers to determine. In the course of such determination however, legislature must bring the pay scales of the present magistrates and the projected special judges at par with each other, lest the standard of equal protection is violated. Whatever the emolument is, it must be in the amount that allows a reasonable judge to refuse to the temptations of corrupt money.

There should be a better idea than this thought. Meantime, this wish finds its anchor in the hope that our government shall be able to strengthen our judiciary. After all, it is  the last bulwark of democracy.

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Email: avenpiramide@yahoo.com.ph

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