Wicker v. Arcangel (G.R. No. 112869; January 29, 1996)

CASE DIGEST: KELLY R. WICKER and ATTY. ORLANDO A. RAYOS, petitioners, vs. HON. PAUL T. ARCANGEL, as Presiding Judge of the RTC, Makati, Branch 134, respondent.

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1. REMEDIAL LAW; SPECIAL CIVIL ACTIONS; DIRECT CONTEMPT; WHEN DEEMED COMMITTED. - What is involved in this case is an instance of direct contempt, since it involves a pleading allegedly containing derogatory, offensive or malicious statements submitted to the court or judge in which the proceedings are pending, as distinguished from a pleading filed in another case. The former has been held to be equivalent to misbehavior committed in the presence of or so near a court or judge as to interrupt the proceedings before the same within the meaning of Rule 71, 1 of the Rules of Court and, therefore, direct contempt.

2. ID.; ID.; ID.; DISTINGUISHED FROM INDIRECT CONTEMPT. - In case of indirect or constructive contempt, the contemnor may be punished only [a]fter charge in writing has been filed, and an opportunity given to the accused to be heard by himself or counsel, whereas in case of direct contempt, the respondent may be summarily adjudged in contempt. Moreover, the judgment in cases of indirect contempt is appealable, whereas in cases of direct contempt only judgments of contempt by MTCs, MCTCs and MeTCs are appealable.

3. ID.; ID.; CONTEMPT; MANIFESTED IN THE ALLEGATIONS OF THE MOTION FOR INHIBITION. - The power to punish for contempt is to be exercised on the preservative and not on the vindictive principle. Only occasionally should it be invoked to preserve that respect without which the administration of justice will fail. The contempt power ought not to be utilized for the purpose of merely satisfying an inclination to strike back at a party for showing less than full respect for the dignity of the court. The Court sustains Judge Arcangels finding that petitioners are guilty of contempt. A reading of the allegations in petitioners motion for inhibition, leads to no other conclusion than that respondent judge was beholden to the opposing counsel in the case to whom or to whose wife, the judge owed his transfer to the RTC of Makati, which necessitated easing out the former judge to make room for such transfer. These allegations are derogatory to the integrity and honor of respondent judge and constitute an unwarranted criticism of the administration of justice in this country. They suggest that lawyers, if they are well connected, can manipulate the assignment of judges to their advantage. The truth is that the assignments of Judges Arcangel and Capulong were made by this Court, by virtue of Administrative Order No. 154-93, precisely in the interest of an efficient administration of justice and pursuant to Sec. 5 (3), Art. VIII of the Constitution. This is a matter of record which could have easily been verified by Atty. Rayos.

4. ID.; ID.; ID.; ID.; LAWYERS SHARE RESPONSIBILITY THEREOF. - Atty. Rayos cannot evade responsibility for the allegations in question. As a lawyer, he is not just an instrument of his client. His client came to him for professional assistance in the representation of a cause, and while he owed him whole-souled devotion, there were bounds set by his responsibility as a lawyer which he could not overstep. Based on Canon 11 of the Code of Professional Responsibility, Atty. Rayos bears as much responsibility for the contemptuous allegations in the motion for inhibition as his client. Atty. Rayos duty to the courts is not secondary to that of his client. The Code of Professional Responsibility enjoins him to observe and maintain the respect due to the courts and to judicial officers and [to] insist on similar conduct by others and not [to] attribute to a Judge motives not supported by the record or have materiality to the case. After the respondent judge had favorably responded to petitioners profuse apologies and indicated that he would let them off with a fine, without any jail sentence, petitioners served on respondent judge a copy of their instant petition which prayed in part that Respondent Judge Paul T. Arcangel be REVERTED to his former station. He simply cannot do in the RTC of Makati where more complex cases are heard (sic) unlike in Davao City. If nothing else, this personal attack on the judge only serves to confirm the contumacious attitude, a flouting or arrogant belligerence first evident in petitioners motion for inhibition belying their protestations of good faith.

5. ID.; ID.; ID.; JAIL SENTENCE DISPENSED WITH IN CASE AT BAR. - The jail sentence on petitioners may be dispensed with while vindicating the dignity of the court. In the case of petitioner Kelly Wicker there is greater reason for doing so considering that the particularly offending allegations in the motion for inhibition do not appear to have come from him but were additions made by Atty. Rayos. In addition, Wicker is advanced in years (80) and in failing health (suffering from angina), a fact Judge Arcangel does not dispute. And at least Wicker had the grace to admit his mistake. It is noteworthy Judge Arcangel was also willing to waive the imposition of the jail sentence on petitioners until he came upon petitioners description of him in the instant petition.

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