Page images
PDF
EPUB

[Extract from Minutes of Proceedings January 5, 1901. ]

THE UNITED STATES PHILIPPINE COMMISSION.

IN THE MATTER OF THE SUSPENSION OF HONORABLE ANTONIO MAJAR

REIS DEL ROSARIO, JUDGE OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE OF THE DISTRICT OF BINONDO.

DECISION.

For a considerable period prior to the 10th day of August, 1900, the Honorable Antonio Majarreis del Rosario had been Judge of the Court of First Instance of the district of Binondo, under an appointment from the Military Governor, and, on the date named, was still exercising the duties of that office. On that day, there was issued from the office of the Military Governor, and delivered to Judge Majarreis, an order informing him, among other things,

“That you have this day been suspended from office as the Judge of the Court of First Instance of the district of Binindo You will at once enter this order upon the records of your court and thereafter will perform no duties whatsoever incident to said office until further investigation and final decision is reached.”

Since that date the Judge has ceased to act in his official capacity. On the 1st of September, that portion of the executive authority which relates to appointments to judicial positions, and removals from such positions, was transferred from the Military Governor to the United States Philippine Commission by virtue of the instructions of the President of the United States to the Commission. In the latter part of October, Judge Majarreis made a written application to the Commission wherein he prayed that the cause of his suspension might be inquired into by the Commission, and that he might be reinstated in office, or be permanently removed, as justice should require. In response to that application, the Commission set apart the 17th day of December for the purpose of hearing the charges against Judge Majarreis and his defense, and caused due notice of the time of hearing to be given to the said Judge, the Attorney General of the Philippine Islands, and to all the parties interested in the litigation in which the alleged misconduct of the Judge was charged to have occurred. On the day named, the Judge, with counsel, appeared, as well as the Attorney General of the Islands, and the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, the complainant in the original proceedings under which the suspension was ordered, and members of the firm of Jurado & Co., which firm was a party to the original litigation out of which grew the transaction under consideration. Two other persons, George Hartman and Ricardo Regidor, to whom notice of hearing had been ordered to be given, did not appear, Hartman having deceased early in the year 1900, and Ricardo Regidor having departed for Spain prior to the issuance of the order of notice. On the day fixed, and on the following day, the parties who appeared were fully heard, and the facts herein stated are based mainly upon those shown by the record or stated personally to the Commission by Judge Majarreis. They are in substance as follows:

On the 25th day of November, 1884, by public instrument executed before a notary public, George Hartman purchased from the firm of Jurado & Co., then doing business in Manila, the store known as “El Siglo XIX,” for $10,000.00, which he undertook to pay in twenty months, at the rate of $2,000.00 per month, with interest thereon at

the rate of eight per cent. per annum.

On the 10th day of February, 1885, Hartman, having already paid $4,000.00 towards the consideration of his purchase, sold the same store to Charles I. Barnes, as agent of the longkong & Shanghai Banking Corporation, by public instrument executed before a notary public, wherein Barnes undertook, as agent for the bank, that, in addition to a certain sum then paid to Hartman, it would pay the $36,000.00 remaining upon the purchase money, to Jurado & Co., but that instrument likewise provided that the bank might apply that sum in liquidation of the claims which it was alleged to have against the firm of Jurado & Co. But prior to the date of the purchase of the store by Barnes, as agent for the bank, to wit, on the 6th day of February, 1885, Jurado & Co., by an act of conciliation celebrated before the Court of First Instance of Binondo on that date, assigned to Matias Saenz de Vismanos, the credit against Hartman (nominally to the amount of $40,000.00, actually $36,000.00, by reason of the payment that had been made them), as security for the payment of an alleged debt of $13,907.00 due to one Mrs. Baura. Ten days later, that is, on February 16, 1885, Vismanos, owner of the said credit of $36,000.00, by public instrument executed before a notary public, assigned the same credit to one L. Fernandez. Shortly afterwards, Fernandez permitted Jurado & Co. to include the said credit of $36,000.00 as an item of damage against the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, in an action in favor of that firm against said bank, which action is still pending; but it does not appear that there was any formal transfer of the credit by a public instrument before a notary public, from Fernandez to Jurado & Co. On the 28th day of August, 1889, Fernandez, who still, so far as the public record disclosed, was the owner of the credit of $36,000.00, by a public instrument before a notary public, transferred that credit to Ricardo Regidor, who was a member of the firm of Jurado & Co. Upon this state of facts, Ricardo Regidor claimed to be the owner of the credit of $36,000.00, and it was the duty of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank to pay that sum to him, unless it could establish a legal defense to the claim; but it did not appear that either Regidor or any one else, from the year 1885 down to the present time, made any attempt to enforce that claim, except so far as that subject is involved in the general litigation which had been going on during that period, between the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank and Jurado & Co., until the institution of the proceedings next hereinafter stated.

On the 15th day of May, 1900, Regidor instituted an executive action in the Court of First Instance of the district of Binondo against George Hartman, for the recovery of the $36,000.00 still remaining unpaid upon the purchase price of the store sold by Jurado & Co. on the 25th day of November, 1884, to George Hartman, together with interest at the rate of eight per cent. per annum from November 25, 1884. Hartman was not in the Philippine Islands at that time, and had not been for many years. He died early in the year 1900, but whether before or after the institution of this executive action did not appear.

Judgment was rendered by Judge Majarreis in that executive action, against Hartman, for the amount of $36,000.00 and interest, and execution therefor was issued against the property of Hartman. No property of Hartman being found, Regidor thereupon presented to the court in which the executive action was pending, and over which Judge Majarreis was presiding, a petition stating in substance, that, by virtue of the facts hereinbefore stated, a credit of $36,000.00 belonging to Hartman, and to be paid to Jurado & Co.,

remained in the possession of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, by reason of which he prayed that execution might be issued against the bank for the said sum of money. On the 9th day of June, 1900, Judge Majarreis addressed a communication to the bank, ordering it to hold the sum of $36,000.00 in its hands of the property or credit of Hartman, subject to the decision of the court in said action against Hartman, and, upon the 13th day of June, the bank, in writing, replied, informing the court that it had in its hands no funds belong. ing to said Hartman and therefore could not hold the same subject to the action of the court. On the 19th day of June, the court directed another communication to be addressed to the bank, different in form, but not in substance, from the former one, and received a reply from the bank in effect like the former one. No summons or citation of any kind was served upon the bank, nor any statement of a time and place where it could be heard. On the 3d day of August, Regidor filed in court a petition praying that requisition be made upon the bank for the $36,000.00 above referred to. The effect of the official communications from the Judge to the bank, made on June 9th and 19th, was to embargo or garnish the credits or funds of Hartman in the hands of the bank, if such credits or funds were actually in its hands. They constituted an attachment by garnishee process, as known in English or American law, but had no other effect. On the 4th day of August, Judge Majarreis issued an order providing, among other things, as follows:

“No proof having been presented by the agent of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank of the payment of $36,000.00 (pesos) which the bank undertook to make in the name of Mr. George Hartman as part of the price of the store styled “Siglo XIX,” and not having made opposition (as attorney-in-fact of the said Hartman, which character it has under Clause 7 of the written instrument presented) to the execution issued nor to the judgment rendered in this case, published in the numbers of the newspapers which were annexed to the petition to which reference is made, let the amount embargoed be attached by the Actuary to that end presenting himself in the offices of the said banking establishment, and let requisition to that effect be made upon the agent together with the presentation of the written agreement for the delivery of said sum;"

And amplifying the embargo so as to cover the interest on $36,000.00 from the 25th day of November, 1884. Thereupon the clerk of the court proceeded to the bank and demanded immediate payment of the sum of $36,000.00 to which demand the agent of the bank replied, that the bank had received no money from IIartman, and had no funds or property belonging to him with which to make the said payment, and for that reason was unable to pay the sum demanded, reserving the right to make use of such recourses as the law furnished, the banking establishment not having been heard or defeated in the suit against Hartman. Thereupon, upon the 9th of August, in response to another petition by Regidor, Judge Majarreis issued a decree, wherein he recited the facts herein before stated in relation to the credit for $36,000.00 and the various transfers thereof, and the rendition of the judgment against Hartman, and the requisition before made upon the bank, and the reply of the bank as above set forth, and that Regidor requested that the allegations of the bank be disregarded and execution be levied for the amount of $36,000.00, without any excuse or protest whatever, and that,

“The bank not having made proof of having paid the said sum, its

obligations to deliver the same is undeniable .. and that it is not true that the bank has not in its possession money belonging to Mr. George Hartman with which to pay the sum for which it has been requisitioned, or that it does not owe to said Hartman any sum whatsoever

and that the executive action taken in this suit has been brought solely against Mr. George Hartman and therefore he alone has the right to appear as defendant in this proceeding."

And ordering, that,

“A new requisition be made upon the agent of the bank for the delivery of said sum, and whatever may be his reply thereto, if he do not comply with the same, let the Actuary immediately proceed to carry the embargo already levied upon the said sum of $36,000.00 (pesos) into effect, to take possession of an equal sum of money from the vaults of said establishment without admitting any excuse or protest whatsoever."

This requisition was forth with presented to the bank by the clerk of the court, and the agent of the bank again refused to deliver the money, and immediately a petition was presented to Judge Majarreis in court, by the attorney for the bank, asking to be admitted as a party to the action, praying the court to grant a rehearing, and declaring that the bank was under no obligation to pay the $36,000.00 for which the requisition has been made. On the 10th day of Augusi, Judge Majarreis decided that the Hongkong Bank, not being a party to the executive action of Regidor against Hartman, had no standing in court, and no action could be taken upon its petition, and on the same day ordered the clerk again to proceed to the bank, taking with him American military police, for the purpose of forcibly seizing the $36,000.00 and thus carrying into effect the decree of August 9th. At this point, and before the vaults of the bank could be forced open and the money seized, the Military Governor, on petition of the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, intervened with a stay of all proceedings under the decree last mentioned, and the suspension of the Judge above stated.

The courts in the Philippine Islands were then in existence only by virtue of a military order, and the appointment, suspension, or removal of judges was within the exclusive competence of the Military Goyernor, a power to be exercised by him in such manner as in his judgment would best promote military ends or the public good. The suspension was necessarily upon an ex parte showing, and in an exigency that demanded immediate action.

The question to be determined by the Commission is, ought Judge Majarreis, under the conceded facts, to be restored to his position as judge, or ought he permanently to be removed from the bench. No direct proof of actual corruption on the part of the Judge was adduced, nor was there any evidence tending to establish it, except such inferences as might fairly be drawn from his action under the circumstances above stated, coupled with the further facts, which appeared in the hearing, that on several occasions, a short time prior to the attempts to enforce payment of the $36,000.00 from the bank, Ricardo Regidor had private interviews with Judge Majarreis, at his place of residence, and that, at about the same time, in other litigation pending before that Judge, judgments were rendered by him giving to Regidor immediate possession of two houses, the right to which was in dispute, and refusing to grant any hearing or appeal to the party against whom the judgments were rendered, upon technical grounds, quite similar to those given by the Judge as the reason for his action in the principal case now under investigation.

In the performance of its executive duty to remove a judge when the good of the public service requires such reinoval, the Commission would not necessarily be governed by the same rules that would apply on an impeachment of a judicial officer for high misdemeanors or offenses. Its action would be determined, not upon any technical grounds, but upon a consideration of the general interests of the public, and the due administration of justice. A judge ought not to be removed for a mere mistake in the law, unless the mistake is of such a character as to clearly indicate a perverted moral sense on the part of the judge, or incapacity to distinguish between right and wrong, between justice and injustice, or such gross ignorance as to make it manifestly unsafe to entrust him with the further performance of judicial duties. The independence of the judiciary ought not to be assailed. Every judge must be free to exercise his honest, fair, unbiased and impartial judgment upon all matters calling for his judicial action, without fear of having the consequences of such action visited upon him by the penalty of removal. But an able, upright, impartial and incorruptible judiciary lies at the basis of all good government.

In the last resort, under free civil institutions, the citizen must go to the court to determine his rights, not only as against his neighbox, but also as against oppressive actions on the part of public officials. The courts are the final arbiters of liberty of the person, and security of the property, of all men. It is indispensable that the possessors of this great power should be men of high character, lofty principles, profound sence of justice, and free from taint of every kind, so that they may command the unbounded confidence of the community in their wisdom and probity. It is not enough that a judge should mean to do well, if he has no such capacity as enables him to reach just results, and, with capacity and legal learning, he must also possess the moral discrimination that enables him to distinguish right from wrong, and to brush away petty technicalities that befog and obscure the real issues and the absolute merits of the controversy, and the courage to resist all importunities to permit injustice, under any pretense, and the absolute determination that justice, and nothing but justice, shall prevail in his court.

The central fact in the result of the executive action of Regidor vs. Hartman is, that Judge Majarreis rendered a final judgment and issued execution against the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank, when that bank was not a party to the action, when it had never been cited to appear and protect its rights, when the Judge was authentically informed that the bank denied having in its possession any funds or property belonging to Hartman, or subject to execution on a judgment against him, and when its efforts to be heard in defense of its rights were entirely disregarded and defeated by the Judge. No sophistry or legal quibble can obscure this central fact. It is a fundamental principle, lying at the bottom, not only of the universal sense of justice and right, but also of every system of civilized jurisprudence, that no one shall be condemned unheard, that judgment shall not be rendered and execution shall not be issued, in any case, against any one until he has had his day in court. The violation of this principle by Judge Majarreis was complete, and occurred in an action where great pecuniary interests were at stake, and where redress was impossible, if the execution ordered by him had been enforced. Such violation of fundamental principles shocks the moral sense. Putting the most favorable construction upon his action, it indicates such å

« PreviousContinue »