SC Fines CA Justice Lagura-Yap

October 15, 2020

The Supreme Court has fined an incumbent Court of Appeals (CA) Justice to an amount equivalent to one year of her salary as an appellate justice for failing to decide 160 cases within the reglementary period during her stint as a Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge.

In a per curiam decision promulgated on June 23, 2020, the Court found Justice Marilyn B. Lagura-Yap guilty of Gross Inefficiency when she, as then Presiding Judge of Branch 28, Regional Trial Court, Mandaue City, failed to decide 160 cases within the reglementary period and to submit the required certification of caseload before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) as required by the JBC when she applied for the CA post in 2011.

The Court held that the fine is payable within 30 days from receipt of notice. Justice Lagura-Yap was further admonished to be more diligent in the performance of her sworn duty as a dispenser of justice, especially that she is now a CA Associate Justice. The decision is immediately executory.

In imposing the fine equivalent to one year of her current salary, the Court considered the number of cases left undecided and the lack of any plausible explanation for such failure to decide within the reglementary period, and her failure to submit the certification of pending cases before the JBC.

The sanction against Justice Lagura-Yap is a testament that Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is serious in purging the Judiciary. Shortly after his appointment as the 26th Chief Justice in 2019, Chief Justice Peralta came out with his Ten-Point Program which has four core areas ─ efficiency, integrity, security, and service. 

The Court held that it cannot overstress its policy on prompt disposition or resolution of cases, adding that “delay in the disposition of cases is a major culprit in the erosion of public faith and confidence in the judicial system, as judges have the sworn duty to administer justice without undue delay.”

The Court stressed that the Constitution expressly provides that all lower courts should decide or resolve cases or matters within three months from the date of submission.

Section 5, Canon 6 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct likewise provides that judges shall perform all judicial duties, including the delivery of reserved decision, efficiently, fairly and with reasonable promptness.

Likewise, the Court has laid down certain guidelines to ensure compliance with this mandate. In particular, Administrative Circular No. 13-87 which provides that judges shall observe scrupulously the periods prescribed by Article VIII, Section 15, of the Constitution for the adjudication and resolution of all cases or matters submitted in their courts.

In the case at bar, Justice Lagura-Yap admitted her failure to decide cases within the 90-day period; failure to comply with Section 8 of A.M. No. 04-5-19-SC regarding the submission of a certification that she had disposed all cases assigned to her in Mandaue City, Cebu RTC Branch 28; and failure to submit a certification of the status of pending cases and cases submitted for decision when she applied for the CA post in 2011.     

The Court said that while Justice Lagura-Yap’s justifications and explanations ─ heavy caseload, voluminous records, death of family members, and being understaffed ─ may be recognized as true and reasonable, the same “are not sufficient to exonerate her from liability.” In administrative proceedings, only substantial evidence is required to warrant disciplinary sanctions, the Court held.

The Court noted though that it cannot simply impute upon Justice Lagura-Yap that she was dishonest by the mere fact that she has failed to submit the certification since “there was no evidence at all that would show that she intentionally did not submit the certification in order to give herself an advantage and secure the promotion.” ###