What is the sub judice rule?
Of judicial proceedings, not yet decided by a court of law or judge, as long as a matter is sub judice all discussion is prohibited elsewhere.
Is the violation thereof punishable?
It is punishable as indirect contempt of court as “[a]ny improper conduct tending, directly or indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice.”
Why is this so?
Commenting on a case while pending will tend to influence those who will eventually decide it. In order to insulate them from undue influence, any comment or discussion on a pending case is not allowed.
How does this fit in today’s proceedings?
There are a lot of factors that militate against Garci’s refusal to answer on the ground of sub judice. First, a inquiry in aid of legislation presupposes a higher public interest than a pending case. In the balancing of interests, the inquiry weighs more than the alleged violation of the sub judice rule.
Second, the parliamentary inquiry is, as a general rule, plenary. And if the purpose of the inquiry is gather information and not influence a decision on a pending case, there is no violation of the sub judice rule. The purposes are simply different.
Third, as a co-equal branch of government, I believe congress could be exempt from this rule.
I will withhold other comments on today’s events as soon as I can digest them…