Sunday, April 01, 2012

Cruz-Arevalo vs. Layosa (July 2006)

Facts: An administrative complaint was filed against Judge Lydia Layosa by Josefina Cruz-Arevalo. 

Cruz-Arevalo alleged that Judge Layosa was with manifest bias and partiality and ignorance of the law relative to Civil Case No. Q-03-50379: Josefina Cruz-Arevalo and Conrado Cruz v Home Development Mutual Fund and Federico S. Quimbo. 

In the said civil case, Cruz-Arevalo was supposed to represent Conrado Cruz as the latter was to undergo medical treatment in the US. 

Conrado Cruz executed an authorization letter and a special power of attorney (SPA), which Cruz-Arevalo presented during pre-trial. 

Judge Layosa ruled that the authorization letter was defective because it was not duly notarized and authenticated. She likewise found the SPA defective because it pertains to the authority of Cruz-Arevalo to receive Conrado Cruz’s contribution to the PAG-IBIG Provident Fund and not to represent him in the pre-trial of Case No. Q-03-50379. 

Finding the absence of Conrado Cruz during pre-trial inexcusable and without proper representation in his behalf, i.e. non-suited, Judge Layosa dismissed the civil case. 

Complainant Cruz-Arevalo also assailed the order of Judge Layosa to exclude several paragraphs in the affidavit of Atty. Cecilio Y. Arevalo, Jr., which was adopted as the direct testimony of her witness, without giving her counsel a chance to comment on the objections raised by the defense. 

Cruz-Arevalo further accused Judge Layosa of inaction, indifference, or collusion by silence with the defendants in the civil case for not acting on her Motions for Writs of Subpoena Duces Tecum and Ad Testificandum. 

Issue: Is Judge Layosa administratively liable? NO. 

Held: Mere suspicion that a judge was partial is not enough. The acts of a judge in his/her judicial capacity are not subject to disciplinary action even though erroneous in the absence of fraud, dishonesty, or corruption, which complainant Cruz-Arevalo failed to prove in this case. 

As regards the exclusion of certain paragraphs in the affidavit of complainant’s witness, the rule is that evidence formally offered by a party may be admitted or excluded by the court. If a party’s offered documentary or object evidence is excluded, he may move or request that it be attached to form part of the record of the case. If the excluded evidence is oral, he may state for the record the name and personal circumstances of the witness and the substance of the proposed testimony. These procedures are known as offer of proof or tender of excluded evidence and are made for purposes of appeal. 

If an adverse judgement is eventually rendered against the offeror, he may in his appeal assign as error the rejection of the excluded evidence. The appellate court will better understand and appreciate the assignment of error if the evidence involved is included in the record of the case. 

As regards the Motion for Writs of Subpoena Duces Tecum and Ad Testificandum, Judge Layosa was correct to not have entertained the same as the legal fees corresponding thereto were not paid. (Judge Layosa eventually issued the subpoena prayed for upon payment of the required legal fees.) 

Note: 

Judge Layosa eventually inhibited herself from the civil case, if only to assuage the fears of Cruz-Arevalo of not obtaining a fair and impartial trial.

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