Judiciary unveils details of new complaint mechanism

The judiciary on Monday announced more details of a new nine-member advisory committee, formed by senior judges and lay persons, that will be set up as part of a new mechanism for handling complaints’ against judges.

Currently, all complaints against judges’ conduct are handled by judges of the relevant levels, who have the discretion to bring up the matter to the Chief Justice and the Judicial Officers Recommendation Commission for advice.

But under the new two-tier system that will take effect from August 16, a panel of judges comprising more than one High Court judge will investigate “pursuable complaints” considered “serious” or “complex”, or those that have aroused “wide public attention”.

The panel will then refer the cases to a nine-member advisory committee consisting of five senior judges, one lawyer, and three lay persons, who will review the cases and give their advice, before the Chief Justice makes a final decision on each complaint.

Other complaints will be handled by relevant court leaders, except for cases related to judges of the Court of Final Appeal or court leaders, which will also have to be handled under the two-tier mechanism, regardless of how serious or minor they are.

In a statement, the judiciary said complaints received from August 16, as well as those received earlier but have yet to be processed, will be handled under the enhanced mechanism.

It also announced that the new Advisory Committee on Complaints against Judicial Conduct will serve a two-year term starting from August 16 and be chaired by Chief Justice Andrew Cheung.

Members appointed to the committee include Court of Final Appeal judges Johnson Lam and Patrick Chan, Chief Judge of the High Court Jeremy Poon, and Vice President of the Court of Appeal Susan Kwan, businessman Cheng Wai-chee, senior counsel Patrick Fung, former Ombudsman Connie Lau, and engineering professor Lee Chack-fan.

Apart from monitoring and advising on complaints against judges’ conduct, the new committee is also tasked with identifying problems in court practices, and offering suggestions to improve the complaints mechanism, the judiciary said.

Chief Justice Andrew Cheung said in taking forward the new mechanism, the judiciary has made sure that judicial independence should not be undermined, stressing that dissatisfaction with judicial decisions “should only be dealt with in accordance with applicable legal procedures such as appeal or review.”

“The Advisory Committee comprises senior judges and members from the community with a good and balanced mix of profound expertise and experience in judicial, professional and public services. Their knowledge and experience will be invaluable in enhancing the transparency and the accountability of the mechanism for handling complaints against judicial conduct,” he added.