15 phrases that LAW STUDENTS should keep in mind

Here are 15 phrases in law school that law students should NEVER forget. These are common refrains or keywords in textbooks and Supreme Court decisions that may prove handy as they move up from first year to fourth year in law school. Better know them now before it's too late?

[1] Serve and file

The rule regarding motions is "serve and file," NOT file and serve. In short, before a written motion is filed in court, the adverse party must be served therewith. Proof of such service is required.

Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 require that every written motion be set for hearing by the movant, except those motions which the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of the adverse party.The notice of hearing must be addressed and served to all parties at least three days before the hearing.

A motion which does not meet the requirements of Sections 4 and 5, Rule 15 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is considered pro forma; it is nothing but a worthless piece of paper which the clerk has no right to receive and the court has no authority to act upon. "Service of [a] copy of a motion containing notice of the time and place of hearing of said motion is a mandatory requirement and the failure of the movant to comply with [the] said requirements renders his motion fatally defective. (G.R. No. 192866)

[2] Allege and prove

In Latin, "allegata et probata." Parties must allege and prove. In other words, what has been alleged must be proved.

In G.R. No. 204926, the Supreme Court used this phrase. "For a forcible entry suit to prosper, the plaintiffs must allege and prove: (a) that they have prior physical possession of the property; (b) that they were deprived of possession either by force, intimidation, threat, strategy or stealth; and, (c) that the action was filed within one (1) year from the time the owners or legal possessors learned of their deprivation of the physical possession of the property."

[3] Null and void

"Null and void" is a popular term in law school. Under the Civil Code of the Philippines, when the courts declared a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall govern. "Null and void" means "cancelled" or "invalid." To be honest, this phrase is redundant because "null" or "void" means "ineffective" so one of them is enough.

[4] Lost and found

The "lost and found rule" or the "finders keepers rule" is found in Article 719 of the New Civil Code of the Philippines. This rule is very different from our colloquial sense of "finders keepers" since the finder has to first do something and wait for a period of time because he can claim to be his what he has found.

Whoever finds a movable, which is not treasure, must return it to its previous possessor. If the latter is unknown, the finder shall immediately deposit it with the mayor of the city or municipality where the finding has taken place.

The finding shall be publicly announced by the mayor for two consecutive weeks in the way he deems best.

If the movable cannot be kept without deterioration, or without expenses which considerably diminish its value, it shall be sold at public auction eight days after the publication.

Six months from the publication having elapsed without the owner having appeared, the thing found, or its value, shall be awarded to the finder. The finder and the owner shall be obliged, as the case may be, to reimburse the expenses.

[5] Clear and convincing

"Clear and convincing evidence" is a quantum of proof. The highest one is "proof beyond reasonable doubt." Other quanta of proof are substantial evidence and preponderance of evidence.

According to our Supreme Court, clear and convincing proof is more than mere preponderance, but not to extent of such certainty as is required beyond reasonable doubt as in criminal cases." On the other hand, substantial evidence consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance. Consequently, in the hierarchy of evidentiary values, proof beyond reasonable doubt at the highest level, followed by clear and convincing evidence, preponderance of evidence, and substantial evidence, in that order. (G.R. No. 102358)

[6] Search and seizure

Search and seizure are government tools that may be used by the government to suppress crimes. Unlike other powers of the government, search and seizure are very specifically and strictly regulated by the 1987 Constitution. It provides: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures of whatever nature and for any purpose shall be inviolable, and no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall issue except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge after examination under oath or affirmation of the complainant and the witnesses he may produce, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized." (Article III)

In a 1993 case related to search and seizure, the Philippine Supreme Court had occasion to say the following. "There are indeed instances where search and seizure can be effected without necessarily being preceded by an arrest. An illustration would be the "stop-and-search" without a warrant at military or police checkpoints, the constitutionality of which has already been upheld by this Court. Vehicles are generally allowed to pass through these checkpoints after a routine inspection and answering a few questions. If vehicles are stopped and extensively searched it is because of some probable cause which justifies a reasonable belief of those manning the checkpoints that either the motorist is a law-offender or the contents of the vehicle are or have been instruments in the commission of an offense. However, lest it be misunderstood, this doctrine is not intended to do away with the general rule that no person shall be subjected to search of his person, personal effects and belongings, or his residence except by virtue of a search warrant or on the occasion of a lawful arrest. The case before Us is an incident to or an offshoot of a lawful "stop-and-search" at a military or police checkpoint." (G.R. No. 76005)

[7] Fact and law

Litigation is an armed battle and lawyers have two types of ammunition: fact and law. Questions of fact are those that required the presentation of evidence and questions of law are those that require arguments founded on legal provisions or pieces of jurisprudence applied on a certain set of facts. Thus, when a person is said to have no relief in fact or in law, this means his situation (the facts of the law) and the prevailing state of the legal system (the Constitution, statutes and case law) do not support his claim.

In Republic of the Philippines v. Malabanan, the Supreme Court distinguished a question of law from a question of fact. A question of law arises when there is doubt as to what the law is on a certain state of facts, while there is a question of fact when the doubt arises as to the truth or falsity of the alleged facts. For a question to be one of law, the same must not involve an examination of the probative value of the evidence presented by the litigants or any of them. The resolution of the issue must rest solely on what the law provides on the given set of circumstances. Once it is clear that the issue invites a review of the evidence presented, the question posed is one of fact. Thus, the test of whether a question is one of law or of fact is not the appellation given to such question by the party raising the same; rather, it is whether the appellate court can determine the issue raised without reviewing or evaluating the evidence, in which case, it is a question of law; otherwise it is a question of fact.

[8] Valid and binding

This phrase is typically used when it comes to contracts or laws. A similar phrase used in substitution is "valid and enforceable." Hence, we can say that a law or a contract is valid, binding and enforceable when, obviously, it does not contravene the Constitution (in case of laws) or does not go against law, morals, good customs, public order and public policy (in case of contracts).

Note also that "valid and binding" can likewise be used in reference to court judgments.

In one case, the Supreme Court applied this phrase to pretrial stipulations. "May pretrial stipulations duly signed by the accused and their counsel be unilaterally withdrawn before the commencement of the trial? To this main issue, the answer is "No." Stipulations freely and voluntarily made are valid and binding and will not be set aside unless for good cause. The Rules of Court mandate parties in a criminal case to stipulate facts. Once they have validly and voluntarily signed the stipulations, the accused and their counsel may not set these aside on the mere pretext that they may be placed at a disadvantage during the trial." (G.R. Nos. 143689-91)
[9] Actual and potential

In jurisprudence, "actual and potential" is a phrased typically preceding "wrongdoers" and "beneficiaries." There is also one case where the Supreme Court used the term "actual and potential losses of income."

Case #1: "Set up by the [petitioner] as special and affirmative defenses, are that the filing of the case is premature; that the [respondent] has no cause of action; that the obligation has been waived/extinguished; that the [respondent’s] failure to accept deliveries compelled the [petitioner] to store the materials in his warehouse/s and to use valuable space in his premises, which he could have utilized for the storage of materials for other customers, and also prevented him from accepting new orders from other customer causing him actual and potential losses of income; that the [respondent’s] extrajudicial rescission of contract is void since there is no breach or violation thereof by the [petitioner]; and that it was [respondent] which violated the terms/conditions of the contract, entitling [petitioner] to have the same judicially rescinded." (G.R. No. 133803)

Case #2: Under the utilitarian theory, the "protective theory" in criminal law, "affirms that the primary function of punishment is the protective (sic) of society against actual and potential wrongdoers." It is not clear whether petitioner could be considered as having actually committed the wrong sought to be punished in the offense charged, but on the other hand, it can be safely said that the actuations of Mrs. Carolina Teng amount to that of potential wrongdoers whose operations should also be clipped at some point in time in order that the unwary public will not be failing prey to such a vicious transaction (G.R. No. 96132, citing Aquino, The Revised Penal Code, 1987 Edition, Vol. I, P. 11)

Case #3: At the outset, it should be pointed out that the identification of actual and potential beneficiaries under CARP is vested in the Secretary of Agrarian Reform pursuant to Section 15, R.A. No. 6657, which states: SECTION 15. Registration of Beneficiaries. — The DAR in coordination with the Barangay Agrarian Reform Committee (BARC) as organized in this Act, shall register all agricultural lessees, tenants and farmworkers who are qualified to be beneficiaries of the CARP. These potential beneficiaries with the assistance of the BARC and the DAR shall provide the following data: (a) names and members of their immediate farm household; (b) owners or administrators of the lands they work on and the length of tenurial relationship; (c) location and area of the land they work; (d) crops planted; and (e) their share in the harvest or amount of rental paid or wages received. (G.R. No. 158228)

[10] Form and substance

For those who have already taken up civil procedure (under remedial law), "form and substance" is a familiar phrase referring to motions or petitions. "The motion or petition must be sufficient in form and substance."

Under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, it is said: "If the petition is sufficient in form and substance to justify such process, the court in which it is filed, or a judge thereof, shall issue an order requiring the defendant or defendants to answer the petition within ten (10) days from the receipt of a copy thereof. Such order shall be served on the defendants in such manner as the court may direct, together with a copy of the petition, and to that effect the petitioner shag file sufficient copies thereof." (Section 6)

In one case, the Supreme Court applied the phrase to court decisions: "A decision that does not conform to the form and substance required by the Constitution and the law is void and deemed legally inexistent. To be valid, decisions should comply with the form, the procedure and the substantive requirements laid out in the Constitution, the Rules of Court and relevant circulars/orders of the Supreme Court. For the guidance of the bench and the bar, the Court hereby discusses these forms, procedures and requirements." (G.R. No. 159357)

[11] Hear and decide

Jurisdiction is the power of tribunals to hear and decide a case. This phrase is often used in pieces of jurisprudence dealing with the jurisdiction of courts and motions to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction.

"CSC’s jurisdiction to hear and decide disciplinary cases against erring government officials is not without limitation. As discussed above, the Administrative Code vests the CSC appellate jurisdiction over "all administrative disciplinary cases involving the imposition of a penalty of suspension for more than thirty days, or fine in an amount exceeding thirty days’ salary, demotion in rank or salary or transfer, removal or dismissal from office." Original jurisdiction is vested upon the department secretaries and heads of agencies and instrumentalities, provinces, cities and municipalities to investigate and decide matters involving disciplinary action against officers and employees under their jurisdiction." (G.R. No. 176162)

[12] Rule and law

Note that the word "law" in its broadest sense simply refers to rules of conduct promulgated by an authority. Hence, the Rules of Court can be considered law in this sense, not to mention statutes, administrative rules and regulations, jurisprudence (case law), etc.

"Rule and law" is a set phrase referring to "law" in the broad sense. In one case decided by the Supreme Court, it was said: "Said Rule and law refer to appeals to the Supreme Court from the decisions of the Regional Trial Court. Clearly, they do not involved the review of orders of the Regional Trial Court rendered after the decision of the trial court has become final and executory. Such a review must be taken under Rule 65, which can be given due course only when there is a showing of lack or excess of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion on the part of the trial court (Revised Rules of Court, Rule 67, Section 1; Planter's Products v. Court of Appeals, 193 SCRA 563 [1991]). We find no abuse of discretion, much less lack of or excess of jurisdiction, on the part of respondent judge." (G.R. No. 115044)

[13] Brief and concise

This phrase is too easy to need any explanation. However, it must be kept in mind that it is often used in the field of pleadings and legal forms.

The ideal pleading is "brief" and "concise," said the Supreme Court in one 1915 case. (G.R. No. L-10031)

Although in some of the cases referred to the decision is rested upon the requirements of the particular statute which either states all that is required to be pleaded in an action of ejectment or peremptorily specifies the style of the pleadings, there is sufficient basis for the rule from the standpoint of pleading. (Nelson vs. Brodhack, 44 Mo., 596.) The code theory of pleading and, indeed, the common law theory, requires only the ultimate material facts to be stated in the pleading. Allegations of mere evidentiary or immaterial facts may be expunged from the pleadings or may be stricken out on motion (Code Civ. Proc., sec. 107) and, in some cases, such matters make the pleading demurrable. (Code Civ. Proc., secs. 91, No. 6. and 100, No. 2.) The whole purpose of alleging facts in the pleadings is to form issues. It is necessary to allege the ultimate facts relied upon as a cause of action or defense, and, when this is done, all evidentiary or probative facts tending to prove these ultimate facts are admissible at the trial, if they conform to the ordinary rules of evidence. The ideal pleading is "brief" and "concise," (Code Civ. Proc., sec. 90, No. 2). Such were the answers of the defendant herein. As they conform to the true theory of our system of pleading, they should be encouraged and not discouraged. It must be furthermore remembered that under section 784, No. 28, of the Code of Civil Procedure, plaintiff is allowed to make up his complaint in an action to recover possession of land without disclosing the title which he intends to rely upon. And it has been remarked in some cases that to require the defendant to plead specially the title he intends to rely upon as a defense is obviously unfair under such circumstances. It would place him in the predicament anticipating the nature of plaintiff's evidence and at the same time enable the plaintiff to meet the defense beforehand. (Staley vs. Housel, 35 Neb., 160; Mather vs. Hutchinson, 25 Wis., 27.)

[14] Bar and bench

The words "bar" and "bench" are actually collective nouns. They are akin to "an army of frogs," "a congress of baboons," "a flock of birds," etc. We say "a bar of lawyers" and a "bench of judges/justices."

In Supreme Court decisions, "bar and bench," of course, refers to lawyers and judges who are soldiers of the judiciary in the battle of justice administration. "The duty to maintain respect for the dignity of the court applies to members of the bar and bench alike. A judge should be courteous both in his conduct and in his language especially to those appearing before him. He can hold counsels to a proper appreciation of their duties to the court, their clients, and the public without being petty, arbitrary, overbearing, or tyrannical. He should refrain from conduct that demeans his office and remember always that courtesy begets courtesy. Above all, he must conduct himself in such a manner that he gives no reason for reproach. (San Juan v. Bagalacsa, 283 SCRA 416 (1997)) As stated in Canon 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, a judge should avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all his activities." (A.M. No. MTJ-00-1266)

[15] Sue and be sued

"Sue and be used" is often read or heard of when it comes to topics related to capacity or personality to sue. In political law, this phrase inundates textbook pages on immunity from suit (one of the most difficult topics in law school). The lack of personality to sue or be sued can also be invoked as a defense in court or a ground for a motion to dismiss under Rule 16.

The State cannot be sued without its consent.

Corporations can sue and be sued, they having separate and distinct personality from those composing them.

Since most decisions of the High Court regarding "sue and be used" are about corporations, here is an example. "The power of a corporation to sue and be sued is lodged in the board of directors, which exercises its corporate powers. It necessarily follows that an individual corporate officer cannot solely exercise any corporate power pertaining to the corporation without authority from the board of directors. Thus, physical acts of the corporation, like the signing of documents, can be performed only by natural persons duly authorized for the purpose by corporate by-laws or by a specific act of the board of directors."