Frivolous filings nixed

August 21, 2020

Justice is a serious business.

It should not be toyed around with.

The filing of cases should never be taken as light matter; they should be treated with the same dignity and respect demanded by our justice system.   

Quite thankfully, Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Thursday said frivolous suits clogging lower courts are expected to lessen following the overhaul of the rules of court.

During the media launch for the 2019 revisions on the court rules, Peralta explained that during the preliminary assessment by judges under the new rules, judges may outright dismiss frivolous suits, with the judge likewise empowered to discipline erring counsels for filing lighthearted cases.

Under the new rules, the signature of the counsel is required in every pleading submitted to the court and the signature constitutes a certificate that among other things, that the lawyer had made an inquiry and that the claim sought or defense cited is warranted under the law.

The new rules also provide that the court may impose an appropriate sanction on an attorney, law firm or party that violated the rule. The sanction may include, but is not limited to non-monetary directive or sanction. The lawyer or law firm cannot pass on the monetary penalty to the client.

"So lawyers who file frivolous suits, they should be careful because the judge will scrutinize the complaint from the start," Peralta said.

He said there is no use in proceeding to a pretrial or requiring the party to file an answer “when in fact the case should have been dismissed as early as the filing of the case”.

"Under the old rules ...Under the old rules, the judge is not proactive. Under the new rule, the judge is more active in the proceedings," he added.

Also under the present rules, the setting of the pre-trial is now done by the judge and not to be determined by the parties.

"Preliminary assessment is needed now. Before there’s none, before the party set pre-trial. Now, we changed it, the court itself will set pre-trial. So if you have frivolous suit, it will be dismissed) without prejudice to citing the lawyer or even the party for contempt of court," Peralta said. )

Earlier, the SC has approved interim rules for the conduct of remote hearings for the Sandiganbayan amid the coronavirus disease 2019  pandemic.

"After reviewing the proposed guidelines for Sandiganbayan remote hearings, the Court resolves to approve with revisions the interim guidelines," the SC said in Resolution AM 20-06-05 SB dated July 14..

Under the interim rules, the anti-graft court may conduct a full remote hearing through videoconference where none of the participants is in court or a partial remote hearing where at least one of the justices and some participants are in court.

The guidelines also provide that in the meantime, the hearings would be using the SC's Philippine Judiciary 360 platform.

All participants must be within Philippine territory during the hearings and all locations shall be considered as an extension of the courtroom during the proceedings

Participants are also ordered to observe proper decorum during the remote hearings.