Judicial Reform and the Laws of Physics – Manila Bulletin


Views from the ridge

Judge Arturo Brion, Chancellor, Judicial Academy of the Philippines

School lessons learned in younger years often become dormant ideas unless they are recalled by some current need or activity. I found two of these lessons, both drawn from the physics that I followed years ago as I reviewed ongoing reforms in the justice system.

My old physics lessons tell me that a body at rest will stay at rest and a body in motion will stay in motion, unless an outside force acts on it. This is Newton’s first law of motion or law of inertia. Another law provides that the amount of movement of a body depends on the force acting on it, or the mass of the body multiplied by its speed.

By applying these laws with the repeated intention of reforming the justice system, we determine the current state of affairs (or Ground Zero) and from there we move towards the results we seek to achieve. , taking into account its schedule.

These laws tell us – by analogy – that we must push (or apply energy) to the great mass of the judiciary to accelerate the planned reforms. Initial efforts are often the most difficult because reforms involve change. Getting away from rest is not easy; just as difficult is a change of direction. The status quo is generally much easier to maintain.

Reforms also require deliberate planning, although the judiciary is fortunate in this regard, as the main author of the reforms, Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo, already has a concrete, clear and unambiguous yet straightforward reform plan. his interview with the Judicial and Bar Council, building on previous reforms and the unfinished efforts of his predecessors.

The Chief Justice’s plan has an underlying foundation – the establishment of an information and communications technology (ICT) structure for the judiciary and the Supreme Court. For the Chief Justice, an inescapable reality to face is the existence of the judiciary in the 21st century whose main mode of operation is the computer; any reform aimed at synchronizing justice with its time and with its environment must necessarily use the computer and its technology.

One of the main elements of this plan is to examine and assess the organizational structure of the entire judicial system, to integrate its systems – accounting, finance, human resources and others – and to make full use of them as supports. of its main task – arbitration.

To show his determination on how he intends to approach arbitration, the Chief Justice has started alongside computerization with a move everyone will understand and appreciate. He began with the functioning of the en banc court itself, reinterpreting the constitutional rule on the settlement of cases. The en banc will now resolve all newly filed cases within 24 months of their submission for resolution, thereby removing the unregulated flexibility enjoyed by members of the Court.

This is a giant first step as it significantly demonstrates the will of the entire Court to begin its reform efforts with a sacrifice – by applying the First Rule of Reform to itself.

The Court has also recently moved in two important directions. First of all, it revised its internal rules and introduced its first amendment – on business consolidation – to ensure continuation of action with the least disruption on related matters. Second, it responded to a problem identified in the money order service by requiring money order servers to use body-worn cameras in the performance of their duties.

The rules of procedure, already being simplified, will continue to be reviewed in order to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of arbitration. The Chief Justice, however, went beyond a simple amendment by asking for more – changes to make the justice system itself work more efficiently. In other words, he doesn’t just want the procedural rules changed; it calls for their effective implementation. This requirement adds a whole new world of meaning to the rule change that had been made in the past.

The crowning achievement of the plan is to provide role models through demonstrated legal competence, moral and ethical values, clear direction and a collective political will for reform, while demonstrating their unity and empathy with the entire judiciary. through ongoing consultations with its key stakeholders. .

I saw this aspect of leadership very recently and I was touched. During the update of the Judges Bench Book (a basic reference tool since 2011), we received a reminder from the Chief Justice that the judges themselves must be heard, if only through a survey, to find out what they need; what they want; and what they think of the Bench Book.

Thus, our judges are no longer simple Bench Book users; they became co-owners of the updating process – a big difference in what the Bench Book now means for the judiciary. It now represents how the judiciary is an integrated whole that feels for all of its parts. We have become a family.

Getting back to physics, the Chief Justice has shown, since taking office – particularly since his June 11 birthday speech at the Supreme Court – that he has left Ground Zero. It is now openly and deliberately committed to the path of reform. The inertia of change has shifted from rest to movement.

Significantly, he is not alone; behind him stands the whole Court providing the impetus, direction and energy to propel the whole judiciary towards the accomplishment of its carefully considered plan. All of this can only lead to the momentum required for effective reform.

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