Monday, January 30, 2012

Here Comes de Judge

"Here come de Judge!"

That is a line from an old American comedy, offered up by this black kid played by . . . um, who? I forget. I can't even remember who played the Judge. My God, age is stupefying.

"Here comes de judge" was also the name of my jeep in Viet Nam, dutifully stenciled on the lower panel of the front windshield. Most jeeps were named there, a part of the soldier's bizarre rituals of keeping morale up.

As I was in charge of two units, I was authorized two jeeps. The second was named "No DEROS", which means a lifer stuck in Viet Nam forever, never to receive orders to return from overseas assignment. A soldier's worst nightmare.

But I digress early on this blog . . .

Impeached Chief Justice Corona committed the cardinal sin among judges (in America). He failed to avoid the appearance of favoritism. Point one, he was President Arroyo's former Chief of Staff. Point two, he accepted her "midnight appointment" just before President Aquino took office. Even a public with no legal training can read that this line of events stinks.

But he is Filipino, so he did what came naturally. He accepted the favor of an appointment and for some reason the Supreme Court acted beneficially to abet a strange Arroyo escape in the dead of night.

So I say, convict the guy for failure in judgment and toss him. Save wear and tear on the Senate. Those old people don't have enough energy for a long, deep trial.

The problem with Filipino Judges is that they are expected to issue American-style judicial renderings, adhering strictly to the law, when the law in the Philippines is defined outside what is written. It is defined according to who is powerful, and who owes whom favors. That is why cases languish for years as opposing parties jockey between themselves, between their attorneys, and with the court, angling for some edge in power. Sometimes justice rides on evidence, sometimes it rides on evidence going stale with the passing of time, sometimes it rides on the Judge getting handsomely paid for letting both parties off the hook if they have worked out some kind of deal. Attorneys aren't experts in the law. They are experts at carving out deals.

That is like the American "out of court settlement", only in the US, the judge doesn't get paid off. Often, he instructs the parties to work harder to agree to settle, so he can keep his case load moving.

Quick renderings are not a hallmark of Filipino courts. I think there are two reasons for the backlog of 300,000 cases that never seems to go away. (1) Filipino courts obsess about irrelevant details rather than keep their eye focused on the essence. (2) Attorneys don't work very hard.

Judicial reasoning in America is ordinarily very simple. The law says "x" in this case. Apply it.

Attorneys are motivated by EARNING the money that comes with a decision, so they don't waste time getting to a resolution. Unless, of course they are on an hourly retainer; then things can take a while.

Can a judge have personality? Or do they have to be so objective that they can't make a joke or snore behind the bench?

Have you ever seen Judge Judy? Of course they can have personalities.

I've been a juror on four cases, and each of the four judges was different. An elderly scholarly type, with no humor but lots of understanding. A handsome young guy who made us jurists feel like we were kings of the land. A young woman who I am sure dyed her hair. A nerd.

But they were also the same. They followed the law. Nothing else.

Let me simplify it.

The Philippines is ruled by law only on paper. In reality, it is a lawless land, ala the American Wild West, circa 1823. The Indians are anyone without power  . . . like a bunch of journalists traveling with the opposition candidate. Thus, we have the massacre and the bus hijacking and logs washing downriver with Indian bodies.

Judges rule according to their interpretation of power.

Chief Justice Corona? Let's just say he is the most short-sighted man in the Philippines. He thought President Arroyo's power was attached to his robe.

No. No. It was not.

1 comment:

  1. I don't even know why we bother going through an impeachment process. I mean who needs rules and cross examinations and evidence if the people have already decided right?

    I don't know why expats whine about these things too, whenever they get thrown in Philippine prisons.


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