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SPOUSES DEMOCRITO and OLIVIA LAGO v. JUDGE GODOFREDO B. ABUL, JR. AM NO.

RTJ-10-2255 FEBRUARY 8, 2012 PROCEDURE: This case began when a disciplinary action was meted on respondent- Judge Abul for1. assuming jurisdiction over a case without the mandated raffle and notification and service of summons to the adverse party and issuing temporary restraining order, 2. setting the case for summary hearing beyond the 72-hour required by law to determine whether the TRO could be extended, and 3. issuing a writ of preliminary injunction without prior notice to the complainants and without hearing. He was found guilty of gross negligence of the law with a fine of P25,000.00. Hence, this motion for reconsideration. FACTS: Complainants filed a disciplinary action against Judge Abul for assuming jurisdiction over a case without the mandated raffle among others. Judge Abul stressed that contrary to the allegations, the Clerk of Court conducted a raffle of the case in question and attached a letter of said Clerk of Court in support thereof. With regards to the 72-hour TRO, it was issued only on July 7, 2009 pursuant to Rule 58, Section 5 (2) of the Rules in order to avoid injustice and irreparable damage on the part of the plaintiff. However, respondent admits not conducting a summary hearing before the expiration of the 72 hours from the issuance of the ex parte TRO to determine whether it could be extended to 20 days. He further explained that such was not simply possible because the law office of the plaintiff's counsel was 144 kilometers far from Gingoog City and service of notice could only be made on the following day. As to the charge that he failed to cause the service of summons on the complainants and that no hearing was conducted prior to the issuance of the writ of preliminary injunction, Judge Abul belies the same with the submission of a certified true copy of the Sheriff's Return of Service and a certified machine copy of the summons bearing the signature of the complainant Democrito Lago that he personally received the same. LEGAL ISSUE: WON Judge Abul is guilty of gross ignorance of law. HOLDING: Ponente-Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza It is a settled doctrine that judges are not administratively responsible for what they may do in the exercise of their judicial functions when acting within their legal powers and jurisdiction.[6] Not every error or mistake that a judge commits in the performance of his duties renders him liable, unless he is shown to have acted in bad faith or with deliberate intent to do an injustice.[7] To hold otherwise would be to render judicial office untenable, for no one called upon to try the facts or interpret the law in the process of administering justice can be infallible in [8] his judgment. To constitute gross ignorance of the law, it is not enough that the subject decision, order or actuation of the respondent judge in the performance of his official duties is contrary to existing law and jurisprudence but, most importantly, he must be moved by bad faith, fraud, dishonesty or corruption.[9] In this case, complainants failed to show that Judge Abul was motivated by bad faith, ill will or malicious motive when he granted the TRO and preliminary injunction. Complainants did not adduce any proof to show that impropriety and bias attended the actions of the respondent judge.