SC hiring 50 ‘judges at large’ to ease case backlog
The Supreme Court has created 50 positions for judges at large—roving judges who have no permanent salas—to implement a law passed by Congress in June last year to resolve the worsening docket load in the lower courts.
In an administrative resolution dated Dec. 3, 2019 and released to the media on Friday, the high court said 30 of the positions are reserved for regional trial court (RTC) judges at large while the remaining 20 are for municipal trial court (MTC) judges at large.
Republic Act No. 11459 of the Judges-At-Large Act of 2019 created a total of 100 positions for RTC judges at large and 50 for MTC judges at large.
Under the law, judges at large shall have no permanent courts and may be assigned by the Supreme Court as acting or assisting judges in any regional trial court or municipal trial court “as public interest may require.”
The Supreme Court shall determine the length of their temporary assignment, after which the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) may recommend to the President their appointment as regular RTC or MTC judges.
The judges at large, who must be natural-born Filipino citizens, are entitled to the salaries, privileges, allowances, emoluments, benefits, rank and titles of their regular counterparts. RTC judges at large must be at least 35 years old upon appointment, while MTC judges at large must be at least 30 years old.
Worsening docket load
Additionally, they must have been engaged in law practice in the Philippines or held public office in the country requiring admission to the practice of law—for at least 10 years for RTC judges at large and at least five years for MTC judges at large.
The JBC also announced the start of the application period for the judges at large: 10 each for Luzon’s RTCs and MTCs, 10 each for Visayas’ and Mindanao’s RTCs, and five each for Visayas’ and Mindanao’s MTCs.
Aspirants to the posts must submit on or before Feb. 11 their applications and other documents listed on the JBC website, according to JBC ex-officio secretary and Supreme Court clerk of court Edgar Aricheta.
The roving judges would address the worsening docket load in the lower courts and “build trust and confidence in the judicial system,” said one of the law’s authors, Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco, who cited his father’s experience as a former justice of the Supreme Court.
Sen. Richard Gordon, who authored the bill in the Senate, cited in June last year some 160,000 cases pending in the country’s 1,200 city and municipal courts, and 640,000 more cases in 1,100 regional trial courts, as of 2017. Such clogged dockets were causing “great delay” in the disposition of cases, he added.
“The congestion of our courts’ dockets deprives the courts of time. Judges need time to study, analyze and research to come up with good, reasonable decisions that affect the quality of justice. There are not enough courts or judges to meet the demands of our countrymen,” Gordon said.
The senator also cited data from the SC’s Court Management Office which showed that as of Dec. 31, 2018, there were 528 vacancies in the city, municipal and regional trial courts.
The high court also directed the Office of the Court Administrator’s administrative services and financial management office to coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management for the funding needed for the new positions.
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