Thursday, February 23, 2012

Ladignon vs. Garong [A.M. No. MTJ-08-1712, August 20, 2008]

Facts: Respondent Judge Rixon M. Garong wrote a letter to the Chairman of the Administrative Council of the First United Methodist Church in Michigan, USA, through which, he forwarded a copy of a letter-complaint of one Rolando G. Gustilo of the Banard Kelly Memorial United Methodist Church, complaining of the surreptitious manner of incorporating their church and singling out complainant Conrado M. Ladignon to be part of the deception. The respondent’s letter prompted Ladignon to complain to the Supreme Court against the respondent’s improper conduct as a member of the Judiciary, for his use in a private communication of his official court stationery and his title as a judge. 

Issue: Whether or not the respondent’s use of his official court stationery and his title as a judge in a private communication was improper. 

Held: YES. At issue in the case at bar is the use of a court’s letterhead and a judge’s designation for non-official transactions, which is not per se improper. It is the surrounding circumstances of the use that mark it with the element of “impropriety” or “appearance of impropriety.” In the case at bar, respondent gave the appearance of impropriety when he used his letterhead and his title under the circumstances, in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct which requires judges to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all of their activities. His use of the letterhead and his designation as a Judge to report a complaint involving an alleged violation of church rules and, possibly, of Philippine laws gave the appearance that there is an implied or assured consent of the court to his cause.

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