Subhead 001 Salaries

    Members are invited to recommend to Finance Committee the creation of the following permanent judicial posts in four new ranks in the Judiciary with effect from 1 July 1997 -

    1 Chief Justice, Court of Final Appeal

    4 Judges, Court of Final Appeal

    1 Registrar, Court of Final Appeal
    ($127,600 - $135,400)

    1 Chief Judge, High Court

    offset by the deletion of the following rank and post -
    1 Chief Justice


We require additional judicial posts for the establishment of the Court of Final Appeal (CFA) on 1 July 1997 to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as Hong Kong's highest appellate court.


2. Based on the constitution of the Court as stipulated in the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance (the Ordinance), we propose to create one Chief Justice (CJ) ($202,650), four Judges ($197,130) and one Registrar ($127,600-$135,400) for the CFA. We also propose to create one Chief Judge of the High Court ($197,130) to take the overall responsibilities for the smooth and effective operation of the future High Court (i.e. the present Supreme Court). We will delete the existing post of Chief Justice ($202,650).


Chief Justice, Court of Final Appeal

3. Under the Ordinance, in addition to being the President of the CFA, the CJ/CFA shall be the head of the Judiciary and charged with the administration of the Judiciary and other statutory functions. He/She will be responsible for all appointment and administrative matters affecting the Judiciary. He/She will also assume the powers and statutory functions that affect the Judiciary, the court system, the legal profession and the powers to make subsidiary legislation.

4. We propose that the remuneration package of the CJ/CFA should be the same as that of the current Chief Justice, as head of the Judiciary. This would mean that we will pitch the salary of the CJ/CFA at a level similar to the highest point (D10) of the civil service Directorate Pay Scale, with the provision of official residence with domestic staff, official car, non-accountable entertainment allowance and such other fringe benefits as may be applicable to the present post of Chief Justice. This would also maintain parity in remuneration between the heads of the executive and judicial branches of the Government. We will provide the official residence to the CJ/CFA irrespective of whether he/she or his/her spouse has received any housing benefit from the Government, the Judiciary or public-funded organisations. However, if the CJ/CFA or his/her spouse is currently in receipt of any housing benefit from the Government, the Judiciary, public-funded organisations or private employers, he/she will cease to receive the said housing benefit during the period when the official residence is provided. The CJ/CFA will pay a monthly rent equivalent to 7.5% of his/her monthly salary.

Judges, Court of Final Appeal

5. Judges of the CFA (CFA Judges) will be responsible for the hearing of criminal and civil appeals from the lower courts. To recognize the status, responsibility and level of judicial experience required, we propose to peg the salary of CFA Judges at $197,130, which is equivalent to the median point between D9 and D10 of the civil service Directorate Pay Scale.

6. In accordance with Section 5 and Section 16 of the Ordinance, one of the CFA judges will be a non-permanent judge to be invited to sit on the Court as required. We propose that apart from salary and the use of official transport, non-permanent judges will not be eligible for other benefits applicable to the permanent CFA Judges. However, non-permanent judges who reside overseas will be provided with a return passage, accommodation and medical coverage.

Registrar, Court of Final Appeal

7. Section 42 of the Ordinance provides for a Registrar to be attached to the CFA. The CFA Registrar shall possess the same qualifications as that of the Registrar, Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court Ordinance is silent on the qualifications of the Registrar, Supreme Court, the Judiciary has filled the post by experienced legally qualified persons because of the need to perform the associated judicial and statutory functions.

8. After reviewing the job of the Registrar, Supreme Court in the light of the creation of the post of Judiciary Administrator (JA), the Judiciary proposed in January 1995 vide EC(94-95)65 that the post of Registrar, Supreme Court be adjusted downwards from D5 to D4 rank. The JA undertook to review again the ranking of that post in the context of the new post of CFA Registrar. Following a recent internal review (please see report at Enclosure 1) the JA recommends that the post of Registrar, Supreme Court should remain at D4.

9. As for the CFA Registrar, a schedule of his proposed duties is at Enclosure 2. In terms of workload, we envisage that at the initial stage of the establishment of the CFA, the CFA Registrar would have to facilitate the transfer of unfinished businesses from the Privy Council to the CFA and to provide assistance to the CFA in setting procedures for the prosecution of such cases. Since the CFA will be a new court, its practice and procedures would develop in time. The CFA Registrar, as Secretary of the Rules Committee, has to play a pivotal role in developing procedures and practice directions for the court.

10. Taking into account the functions of the CFA Registrar and in view of the need for extensive professional experience, the Judiciary proposes that the post be filled by Deputy Registrars of Supreme Court. This will avoid the need to create a one man rank and the potential difficulties in filling the post. The Judiciary accordingly proposes to peg the new post at the same rank as that of the existing Deputy Registrar, Supreme Court, i.e. $127,600 - $135,400, in between D3 and D4 of the civil service Directorate Pay Scale.

11. The organisation chart showing the position of the proposed posts in the Judiciary with the establishment of the CFA is at Enclosure 3. The current organisation chart of the Judiciary is at Enclosure 4.

Chief Judge, High Court

12. To comply with the Basic Law, the title of the Supreme Court will change to "High Court" on 1 July 1997. With the transfer of the headship of the Judiciary to the CJ/CFA, the Judiciary will require a new post of Chief Judge, High Court (CJ/HC) to assume the duties of the President of the Court of Appeal as provided for in the Supreme Court Ordinance (Cap. 4). The CJ/HC will also assume responsibilities as the leader of the retitled High Court and be responsible for its smooth and effective operation. As leader of nine Justices of Appeal and 25 High Court Judges, he/she will be responsible for ensuring the efficient utilization of judicial resources and court time and advising the CJ/CFA on judicial policy concerning the operation and development of the retitled High Court.

13. In view of the vast administrative and leadership responsibilities placed on the post of CJ/HC, we propose that its salary should be on par with that of the CFA Judges at $197,130. On the basis of this proposed pay scale, the pay lead of CJ/HC over a Justice of Appeal will be $19,480, which is generally in line with that applicable to other court leaders.


14. The additional notional annual salary cost at mid-point of this proposal is -


No. of Posts

New permanent post




Permanent post deleted





Additional cost



15. The additional full annual average staff cost of the proposal, including salaries and staff on-costs, is $24,969,530. We have included sufficient provision in the 1997-98 Estimates to meet the cost of this proposal.

16. In addition, the establishment of the CFA will necessitate the creation of 38 non-directorate posts at a notional annual mid-point salary cost of $9,389,220 and a full annual average staff cost of $14,780,260. These posts provide operational support to the CFA. We have also included sufficient provision in the 1997-98 Estimates for funding these non-directorate posts.

17. We are working on a set of filing fees for the CFA. Nonetheless, the proposal will have no impact on the fees of the lower tiers of courts.


18. The CFA Ordinance provides for the CFA to be set up on 1 July 1997 to replace the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council as the final appellate court in Hong Kong.


19. The Civil Service Branch considers the ranking and grading of the proposed new posts appropriate having regard to their duties and level of responsibilities.


20. The Standing Committee on Judicial Salaries and Conditions of Service has advised that the grading proposed for the posts would be appropriate if the posts were to be created.

May 1997

Enclosure 1 to EC(97-98)12

Review of the post of Registrar, Supreme Court


In endorsing EC(94-95)65 on the re-ranking of the post of Registrar, Supreme Court, we undertook to review the rank of the post in the context of the ranking proposals in respect of the Registrar, Court of Final Appeal.


2. The Registrar, Supreme Court's support team consists of five Masters (Deputy Registrar). He/She assumes organisational responsibility for work of the Masters as the leader and co-ordinates their work. The ranking of the Registrar's post is at D4 level.


3. The functions of the Registrar can be divided into the following areas-

  1. Functions that are analogous to that of Masters, including judicial and statutory functions. He exercises the judicial functions of a High Court Judge in chambers and the power of the Official Adminstrator and Master of the Crown Office. The Registrar also has statutory responsibilities for the Supreme Court Registry, Probate Registry, Bailiff Section and the jury service. Details of his judicial and statutory functions are at Annex.

  2. Maintaining and overseeing the professional rolls and certification. The Registrar supervises examinations for Notaries Public and maintain the register of notaries. He keeps the professional rolls on which disciplinary orders must be noted.

  3. As the leader of the Masters, he deals with more complex court applications, such as final appeals from the Director of Legal Aid in applications to the Privy Council, (or the Court of Final Appeal after 30 June 1997). Such applications are either matters of claims of value of $500,000 or upwards or involving questions of great general or public importance.

  4. He also deals with specialised admiralty jurisdiction in which involves large sums and which sometimes involves urgent applications.

  5. The Registrar is also responsible for administering the service of documents under the Agreement for service of documents with the Economic Court of the Guangdong Higher People's Court. He also signs all Apostilles.

  6. He serves as Chairman, Member or Secretary of a number of the Committees, such as the Admiralty Court Users Committee, Costs Committee, Advisory Committee on Legal Education and Supreme Court Rules Committee.

  7. The Registrar also advises the CJ and the JA on matters pertaining to the Rules of the Court, legal, judicial and other matters within his purview as a court leader.


4. The workload upon the Registrar and his support staff has increased over the past years. For example, the number of general and exparte applications has increased by 50%, from 29 221 in 1993 to about 43 900 in 1996. The number of Admiralty cases instituted from 365 in 1993 to 427 in 1996. As a result of the increasing workload, the waiting time for interlocutory applications before the Masters has remained long; in March 1997, the waiting time for a half day hearing before a master is about 64 days. To remedy this undesirable situation, extra resources have to be deployed to bring down such waiting time.

Recent Developments

5. Since 1995, with the creation of the JA post, the Registrar has been relieved of his Administrative functions. This notwithstanding, the workload of the Supreme Court has increased consistently. In addition to this quantitative increase, the complexity of cases has also grown. There are now more legislative proposals which have a bearing on the operation of the court, resulting in new rules on court practices and procedures. We expect this trend will continue and such developments have called for additional input from the Registrar, in terms of co-ordinating the work of the Masters to cope efficiently with the increase in work and in dealing with more complicated cases.

Relativity with other Court Leaders

6. The pay lead of the Registrar, Supreme Court over the Deputy Registrar is $4,550 or 3.4%, and is not out of line with those of other court leaders.


Court Leader


Pay Lead ($)

Registrar, Supreme Court ($139, 950)

Deputy Registrar
($127, 600 - $135, 400)

$4, 550 (3.4%)

Chief District Judge
($139, 950)

District Judge
($119,650 - $126, 800)

$13, 150 (10.4%)

Chief Magistrate
($119, 650 - $126, 800)

Principal Magistrate
($94, 850 - $100, 500)

$19, 150 (19.1%)

Principal Presiding Officer, Labour Tribunal
($94, 850 - $100, 500)

Presiding Officer, Labour Tribunal
($86, 650 - $91, 950)

$2, 900 (3.2%)

Principal Adjudicator,
Small Claims Tribunal
($ 94, 850 - $100, 500)

Small Claims Tribunal
($86, 650 - $91, 950)

$2, 900 (3.2%)

Span of Control

Court Leader

Ranks Supervised

No of Posts Supervised

Registrar, Supreme Court


5 + 1*

Chief District Judges



Chief Magistrate



Principal Presiding Officer, Labour Tribunal



Principal Adjudicator,
Small Claims Tribunal



* Additional post to be created in 1997-98

7. Taking into account the duties of the Registrar, Supreme Court and the increasing workload, we have come to the view that the ranking of the Registrar, Supreme Court should remain at D4, equivalent to the Head of a Group III Department. Such a ranking level would adequately reflect the post's wide judicial and statutory responsibilities and status as a judicial leader of the Deputy Registrars in the Supreme Court. It would also widen the recruitment net and attract high calibre and suitably experienced and qualified candidates.

May 1997


Judicial Functions of the Registrar, Supreme Court

The Registrar, Supreme Court exercises the judicial functions of a High Court Judge in chambers, the only substantial exceptions being criminal matters and injunctions other than injunctions by consent, most matters relating to the liberty of the subjects and other matters which by any of the rules are required to be heard by a judge. He also deals with more complex applications for interlocutory hearings on civil litigations and admiralty cases; exercising jurisdiction in open court; exercising the power of the Official Administrator and Master of the Crown Office; handling taxation of bills of costs.

Statutory and Legal Duties of the Registrar, Supreme Court

The Registrar, Supreme Court is responsible for dealing with the interpretation of discretionary provisions in the Supreme Court Ordinance; supervising the revision and publication of Practice Directions; appointing Commissioner for Oaths; preparing briefs for Amicus Curiae; approving the reduction, remission or deferral of payment of fees; administering the Official Administrator's Account, Master in Lunacy Account and Supreme Court Suitors’ Funds; administering the jury service; superintending the judicial-related and case-related service rendered by the Supreme Court Registry, the Probate Registry, the Clerk of Courts Office, Crown Office and the Bailiff Section.

Enclosure 2 to EC(97-98)12

Proposed Duty List of the Registrar, Court of Final Appeal

The Main duties comprise the following -

  1. to receive notices of appeal, other notices and documents, including the Record and case, and to ensure that they are in the right form and in compliance with the requirements under the Rules of the Court, list appeal cases; to oversee the operation of the Registry; and to facilitate the operation of the Court in accordance with the Rules;

  2. to provide support to the Chief Justice and other judges of the Court of Final Appeal on judicial related matters;

  3. to oversee the diligent prosecution of cases and where necessary, impose sanctions on non-prosecution and seek the court’s directions as and when required;

  4. to handle taxation of cases;

  5. to assist in developing and overseeing the operation of the Rules of the Court of Final Appeal, including acting as the Secretary to the Rules Committee of the Court of Final Appeal to be set up under Section 40 of the Court of Final Appeal Ordinance;

  6. to carry out other statutory responsibility as provided for in the Rules of the Court of Final Appeal, for example, to grant leave to amendment of documents lodged; and

  7. to carry out such judicial functions in relation to procedural and other matters which are within the jurisdiction of the Registrar under the Ordinance and the Court of Final Appeal Rules.


Last Updated on 12 August 1999