Appellant's Brief

Mona Lisa Smile

This is a first. And before I even begin to tell the story, let me tell you that I swear on everything that's holy that every bit of it is true.

I am handling an ejectment case pro bono, the first and the last I will ever take. My client is an old woman in her seventies. She is quite tall and has very fine features. Looking at her, you could tell that she was once a young attractive woman. We will call her Mrs. Tingiling.

Mrs. Tingiling purchased a small house and lot. At the time of the sale, the house was being rented by a middle-aged couple, whom we will call the Gamol Spouses. Mrs. Tingiling informed the Gamols that she had purchased the property and, considering that their lease had expired, asked them to vacate. The Gamols refused.

So we filed an ejectment case. In their answer to the complaint, the Gamol Spouses produced a Deed of Sale out of nowhere and alleged that they had purchased the property from the erstwhile owner. I spoke to the owner, and she executed a sworn statement attesting that she had never sold the property to the Gamols. I have also discovered other evidence indicating that the Gamols' claim of ownership is simply an afterthought, designed to defeat the ejectment suit we had filed.

I met with Mrs. Tingiling a few weeks back to discuss certain aspects of the case. During our meeting, she casually said, "Ipapakulam ko yang mga yan." I chuckled at her comment, and told her that would be perfect. I even suggested that she might want to include the opposing counsel while she was at it.

Fast-forward to the preliminary conference. August 9th. A preliminary conference is an avenue for the parties to expedite the disposition of the case. It is here that the parties enter into stipulations or admissions, and identify the issues involved. I had already explained to my client what the preliminary hearing would be about, so when I met her outside the courtroom, it was brief and perfunctory.

The judge came in. A couple of cases were called. Fortunately, neither of the parties nor their lawyers was in court yet. And so our case was called. And so the clock struck thirteen.

Our preliminary conference proceeded routinely. Well, almost. The opposing counsel, an old fart, asked me to stipulate that the complaint I had filed was defective. I denied the proposed stipulation, of course, and said that the proposal raised a question of law. A small argument ensued, with the WWI veteran pleading his case in broken English. As I was talking, I noticed that our voices, including the judge's, were getting louder. I looked at the judge, and she too was scowling. I don't think you could have called it loud, although the sound certainly caused us to raise our voices. You also wouldn't understand the words. It was some sort of a murmuring sound that you sense but don't actually hear.

The judge banged her gavel, and demanded to know who was making the noise, if you could call it that. All the heads in the courtroom, Mrs. Tingiling's included, whipped back to look at a woman seated at the last row. She was old, no younger than Mrs. Tingiling. She was all dressed in white. I caught her as she averted her eyes, presumably from the judge's stare, trying to look proper and innocent. A white-lady-in-waiting.

The judge asked her to stand up. She pretended not to hear. The judge banged her gavel again and, in a louder voice, asked the old woman to stand up. The white lady obeyed. The judge then asked her to leave the courtroom. Again, the old woman pretended not to hear. The clerk of court then went into the staff room and emerged with the sheriff in tow. The judge directed the sheriff to remove the old woman from the room. After hesitating for a second, the white lady exited, the sheriff following her closely.

After the conference, I joined my client outside the courtroom. Approaching her, I saw that she was talking to the white lady. A thought suddenly struck me, and I almost fell off the steep landing. As I walked towards Mrs. Tingiling, I caught myself staring at the old woman. I then shifted my attention to my client, but couldn't utter a word.

I looked questioningly at Mrs. Tingiling. She smiled at me. Pointing to the white lady, she said, "Kasama ko siya."

The smile said it all. Mrs. Tingiling had actually made good on her threat, if you could call it that. I won't be surprised if the Gamols don't show up for the next hearing. Scared, maybe. But certainly not surprised.

Pleaded by Appellant on Friday, August 12, 2005 @ 6:08 PM with 6 Objections