A.M. No. RTJ-07-2044. June 22, 2011.
Plaintiffs through counsel, Atty. Bautista, filed a Complaint for Partition before the RTC, which is raffled to Judge Causapin’s branch. Defendants filed a motion for an extension to file an answer for 3 times which were all granted by Judge Causapin. Atty. Bautista filed a comment on defendants’ motions for extension and asserted that all three motions did not contain a notice of the time and place of hearing, thus, these should be considered mere scraps of paper. Finally, defendants filed their joint Answer with Counterclaim and Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiffs countered by filing a motion to declare defendants in default. During the hearing, in the Resolution of Motion to Hold Defendants in Default, Judge Causapin dismissed the complaint without prejudice on the ground that plaintiffs R. Mesina and N. Polangco did not sign the verification and certification on non-forum shopping attached to the complaint, in violation of Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court. Judge Causapin held that defendants could not be declared in default for not answering a defective complaint, which in law does not exist.
Atty. Bautista filed an administrative Complaint against Judge Causapin for Gross Ignorance of the Law, for (1) granting defendants’ motions for extension of time to file their answer to the complaint without notice of hearing and (2) dismissing the complaint without ruling on the plaintiffs’ motion to declare defendants in default. In addition, Judge Causapin cannot motu proprio dismiss a case without complying with Rule 7, Section 5 of the Rules of Court which provides that the dismissal of a case without prejudice shall be upon motion and hearing. Atty. Bautista denied that there were other compulsory heirs who were not impleaded in the complaint in Civil Case No. 1387-G, and even if there were, the non-inclusion of compulsory parties was not a valid ground for dismissal of the complaint.
Whether or not Judge Causapin is administratively liable for (a) granting defendants’ motions for extension of time to file answer without hearing and on the same day said motions were filed and (b) dismissing the complaint without ruling on the plaintiffs’ motion to declare defendants in default
(a) No. under Section 4 & 5 of Rule 15 of the 1997 Rules of Court, a movant shall set his motion for hearing, unless it is one of those which a court can act upon without prejudicing the rights of the other party. The prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction is that a motion without a notice of hearing addressed to the parties is a mere scrap of paper. Yet the rule requiring notice of hearing is not unqualifiedly applicable to all motions, and there are motions which may be heard ex parte, as Rule 15, Section 4 of the 1997 Rules of Court also clearly acknowledges. Among the latter class of motions are precisely those seeking extension of time to plead, and the reason these are not strictly held to the requirement of notice is that they are non-contentious and do not as a rule involve the substantial rights of the other parties in the suit
(b) Yes. Judge Causapin had the discretion of either (1) setting a preliminary hearing specifically on the defect in the plaintiffs’ certificate of non-forum shopping; or (2) proceeding with the trial of the case and tackling the issue in the course thereof. In both instances, parties are given the chance to submit arguments and evidence for or against the dismissal of the complaint. Judge Causapin neither conducted such a preliminary hearing or trial on the merits prior to dismissing Civil Case No. 1387-G. Where the law involved is simple and elementary, lack of conversance therewith constitutes gross ignorance of the law. Judges are expected to exhibit more than just cursory acquaintance with statutes and procedural laws. They must know the laws and apply them properly in all good faith.
- The prevailing doctrine in this jurisdiction is that a motion without notice of hearing addressed to the parties is a mere scrap of paper.
- The rule requiring notice of hearing is not unqualifiedly applicable to all motions, and there are motions which may be heard ex parte