When a married judge or lawyer commits immorality

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 5, 2021 - 12:00am

In teaching Legal and Judicial Ethics to future lawyers and judges, I often come across cases decided by the Supreme Court involving lawyer and judges who recklessly mix work and romance. In the end, the lawyer is disbarred and the judge is dismissed. Many years of hard work ends in forced retirement, shame, disillusionment, and ignominy.

In writing a book titled “Molding the Character of Great Filipino Lawyers”, I discovered why man is weak against the lures of the flesh. I dedicate this book to the deans of the Law schools I teach in and it’s replete with cases where lawyers and judges commit indiscretions. While, of course, perhaps more than 95% of judges and lawyers are men and women of honor and decency, there’s a small minority of them with questionable character and who find themselves charged, investigated, and found guilty of various offenses. If we summarize all such indiscretions, we can readily conclude their offenses can be classified based on the proximate causes of their problems: First, greed; second, lust; third, sloth; and fourth, arrogance.

This time, I focus on lust leading lawyers and judges to immorality. In one case, AM 10-1755, the wife of an OFW became the illicit lover of a municipal judge. This judge took advantage of the vulnerability of a lonely wife with a string of bouncing check cases pending before his court. The husband filed a formal complaint. The judge was investigated and the Supreme Court found him guilty of immorality. He was dismissed from the service, with forfeiture of all his retirement benefits. The Supreme Court condemned the acts of the judge in the strongest language, bewailing his blatant lack of delicadeza in sleeping with the wife of the OFW. What’s worse, the judge flaunted his immorality to the two young sons of the OFW and his wife, when the judge shamelessly slept with the wife in a conjugal bedroom built by the sweat of the husband. How did this judge pass the scrutiny of the Judicial and Bar Council?

In another case, AC 7733, a lawyer was disbarred because of illicit and extra-marital relations. The Supreme Court found him guilty of gross immorality for abandoning his legal wife and children and for cohabiting with another woman. The greatest shame here is that it was the wife herself who complained and caused the disbarment of the husband. Indeed, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, In AC 9459, another lawyer was disbarred for adulterous relationship. In AC 10439, another lawyer was disbarred for abandoning his legitimate family and maintaining illicit affairs. In a city adjacent to Cebu, a wife with a very well-known name had her husband disbarred in AC 12475 because he also left the conjugal dwelling and lived with his mistress. I can go on and on and there seems to be no abatement to these cases.

Another case, RTJ-98-1424, sadly involving my former professor in undergraduate course preparatory to Law, resulted in dismissal from his post as Regional Trial Court judge in Maasin, Leyte. He attempted to solicit sexual favors from the court stenographer and was also found guilty of grave misconduct. The court lamented that the respondent judge was a finalist for the award for judicial excellence, but his life and career was ruined because of lust. Said the Court: "Indeed, a judge, more than any other person, ought to behave, in both the performance of official duties and in private life, in a manner that is above suspicion. It is essential therefore, if the judiciary is to engage and retain the respect and confidence of our nation that this Court insist that all judges live up to the high standards demanded by jurisprudence, the Code of Judicial Conduct and by our polity.”

The Supreme Court concluded in this sad case informing my former Political Science professor: “We are aware that he has twice been a finalist in the Awards for Judicial Excellence. Sadly however, the foregoing disquisition reveals the indelible stains on his judicial robe. He is no longer a worthy member of the bench.” With this coup de grace: “Respondent xxx is hereby dismissed from the service, with forfeiture of all retirement benefits and leave credits and with prejudice to reemployment in any branch or instrumentality of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations.” This is a very unfortunate ending of a very promising career. He could have reached the Supreme Court as a magistrate. This is a stern warning to all in the Bar or the bench. Our profession is hazardous to our own life and honor.

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