Passionate Outburst, Personal Capacity of a Judge

Although every office in the government service is a public trust, no position exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an individual than in the judiciary. The conduct required of court personnel must always be beyond reproach and circumscribed with the heavy burden of responsibility. The image of a court of justice is necessarily mirrored in the conduct, official or otherwise, of the men and women who work therein, from the judge to the lowest of its personnel.

In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, is required. In their pleadings and during the trial, the complainant and respondent gave conflicting versions of what happened. Judge Castillo found that on November 5, 2001, respondent dropped by complainant's property and in her anger uttered the offending words. The Supreme Court finds his findings of facts to be a result of a fair and dispassionate analysis of the testimonies of the parties as well as their respective witnesses. The Supreme Court therefore affirm the same.
The Supreme Court agrees with the OCA that the facts, as found by Judge Castillo, constituted acts unbecoming of a public official which respondent should be penalized for. The Supreme Court disagrees with Judge Castillo's declaration that respondent should not be held liable for her passionate outburst since she was just reacting as a property owner and not as a public officer. The Code of Judicial Ethics mandates that the conduct of court personnel must be free from any whiff of impropriety, not only with respect to their duties in the judicial branch but also to their behavior outside the court as private individuals. It is in this way that the integrity and the good name of the courts of justice can be preserved. A clerk of court, in particular, as an essential and ranking officer of our judicial system, who performs delicate administrative functions vital to the prompt and proper administration of justice, must be free from any taint of impropriety.

Respondent's retirement from office did not render the recommended penalty moot and academic. It did not free her from liability. Complainant filed this case on August 29, 2003, before respondent retired from office. As such, the Court retains the authority to resolve the administrative complaint against her. Cessation from office because of retirement does not per se justify the dismissal of the administrative complaint filed against a judicial employee while still in the service. The fine imposed can be deducted from the proceeds of her retirement benefits. Given that it was her first offense, a fine in the amount of P1,000 is reasonable. (A.M. No. P-04-1817; December 19, 2007)