Monday, October 17, 2011

Baculi vs. Battung

Judge Rene B. Baculi, Complainant, vs. Atty. Melchor A. Battung, Respondent

Supreme Court Second Division

A.C. No. 8920, September 28, 2011


Judge Baculi, Presiding Judge of Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 2, Tuguegarao City, filed a complaint for disbarment against Atty. Battung. He claimed that on July 24, 2008, during the hearing on the motion for reconsideration of Civil Case No. 2502, the respondent was shouting while arguing his motion. Judge Baculi advised him to tone down his voice but instead, the respondent shouted at the top of his voice. When warned that he would be cited for direct contempt, the respondent shouted, “Then cite me!”Judge Baculi cited him for direct contempt and imposed a fine of P100.00. The respondent then left.

While other cases were being heard, the respondent re-entered the courtroom and shouted, “Judge, I will file gross ignorance against you! I am not afraid of you!” Judge Baculi ocited him for direct contempt of court for the second time.

After his hearings, respondent again shouted in a threatening tone, “Judge, I will file gross ignorance against you! I am not afraid of you!” He kept on shouting, “I am not afraid of you!” and challenged the judge to a fight. Staff and lawyers escorted him out of the building.

Judge Baculi later found out that after the respondent left the courtroom, Atty. Battung continued shouting and punched a table at the Office of the Clerk of Court.


Did Atty. Battung violate Cannons 11 and 12 of the Code of Professional Responsibility?


IBP Commissioner found that the respondent failed to observe Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility that requires a lawyer to observe and maintain respect due the courts and judicial officers. The respondent also violated Rule 11.03 of Canon 11 that provides that a lawyer shall abstain from scandalous, offensive or menacing language or behavior before the courts. The respondent’s argument that Judge Baculi provoked him to shout should not be given due consideration since the respondent should not have shouted at the presiding judge; by doing so, he created the impression that disrespect of a judge could be tolerated. De la Rama recommended that the respondent be suspended from the practice of law for six (6) months.

The Supreme Court held that litigants and counsels, particularly the latter because of their position and avowed duty to the courts, cannot be allowed to publicly ridicule, demean and disrespect a judge, and the court that he represents.

A lawyer who insults a judge inside a courtroom completely disregards the latter’s role, stature and position in our justice system. When the respondent publicly berated and brazenly threatened Judge Baculi that he would file a case for gross ignorance of the law against the latter, the respondent effectively acted in a manner tending to erode the public confidence in Judge Baculi’s competence and in his ability to decide cases. Incompetence is a matter that, even if true, must be handled with sensitivity in the manner provided under the Rules of Court; an objecting or complaining lawyer cannot act in a manner that puts the courts in a bad light and bring the justice system into disrepute.

Atty. Battung was ordered suspended from the practice of law for one (1) year with a warning that a repetition of a similar offense shall be dealt with more severely.

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