Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Request of Judge Fatima Gonzales-Asdala, [A.M. No. 05-10-618-RTC, July 11, 2006.]

Facts: Judge Fatima Gonzales-Asdala, requesting an extension of 90 days within which to decide 15 cases some of which have been pending in her sala since 2004. She, however, disowns responsibility for the delay in the disposition of these cases and instead blames Victor Pedro A. Yaneza (Yaneza), Court Legal Researcher II of her sala, for not submitting to her the records of the cases for decision. She claims that her heavy caseload and lack of competent and efficient personnel prevented her from disposing of these cases within the 90-day period. Yaneza claims that he personally brought to the court a whiteboard where cases submitted for resolution are listed. This board is hanged in a conspicuous place so that Judge Asdala will be readily informed of the cases listed therein.Yaneza adds that Judge Asdala takes the 90-day reglementary period to decide cases lightly, pointing out that in the subject cases, Judge Asdala requested an extension of time to decide only after the period had already elapsed. 

Issue: Whether the claim of heavy caseload and lack of competent and efficient personnel a valid reason for delay in the disposition of cases

Held: No. The Constitution, no less, fixes a reglementary period of 90 days within which judges must resolve motions or incidents pending before them. Their failure to so decide a case or resolve a motion within this reglementary period constitutes gross inefficiency and warrants the imposition of administrative sanctions against the erring magistrate. 

Judges cannot be allowed to use their staff as shields to evade responsibility for mistakes and mishaps in the course of the performance of their duties. They should not depend on the clerk of court for the calendaring of cases, for court management is ultimately their responsibility. A judge is expected to keep his own record of cases and to note therein the status of each case so that they may be acted upon accordingly and promptly. He must adopt a system of record management and organize his docket in order to bolster the prompt and effective dispatch of business. 

The fact that she requested an extension of time to decide the pending cases does not excuse her failure to decide them on time given that the request was filed when the reglementary period had already elapsed. The Court has consistently been sympathetic to requests for extensions of time to decide cases, mindful of the heavy caseload of judges. However, applications for extension must be filed before the expiration of the prescribed period. 

Therefore, Judge Asdala is guilty of undue delay in rendering a decision or order.

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