Civil Justice Reform: An Overview
L1.  What should be considered before taking legal action [Sample court forms]
L2.  What should be noted about civil proceedings
L3.  What are the stages in a civil action
L4.  How to prepare for a hearing or trial
L5.  How is a trial or hearing conducted in court
L6.  What are Statements of Truth
L7.  How to shorten legal proceedings: Order 13A admissions in monetary claims
L8.  How to shorten legal proceedings: Sanctioned offers and sanctioned payments
L9.  How to apply for judicial review
L10.  How to appeal
L11.  What is taxation of costs
L12.  Civil Justice Reform: Transitional Arrangements
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FAQs on Civil Justice Reform




Q1: What are the underlying objectives of the Civil Justice Reform?

A1: The six underlying objectives of the Civil Justice Reform are:-
(a) to increase the cost-effectiveness of any practice and procedure to be followed in relation to proceedings before the court;
(b) to ensure that a case is dealt with as expeditiously as is reasonably practicable;
(c) to promote a sense of reasonable proportion and procedural economy in the conduct of proceedings;
(d) to ensure fairness between parties;
(e) to facilitate the settlement of disputes; and
(f) to ensure that the resources of the court are distributed fairly
It is the duty of litigants in civil proceedings and legal representatives to assist the court to further these underlying objectives.

Q2: Where can information about the Civil Justice Reform be found?

A2: The Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk contains information about the Civil Justice Reform, including the associated legislations and Practice Directions and a series of information leaflets that give an overview of the Civil Justice Reform and information on civil proceedings in the High Court and the District Court after the commencement of the Civil Justice Reform. The information leaflets can also be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants.

Q3: To what type of proceedings will the Civil Justice Reform apply?

A3: The Civil Justice Reform came into effect on 2 April 2009. It applies to civil proceedings in the High Court and the District Court, except for cases in the specialist lists to which the application of the new rules will be determined by the Judges concerned.
Some of the new rules and procedures introduced under the Civil Justice Reform also apply to proceedings in the Lands Tribunal and the Family Court with necessary modifications.

Q4: Does the Civil Justice Reform only apply to civil actions begun after its commencement date?

A4: The commencement date of the Civil Justice Reform is 2 April 2009. Some of the related legislative changes apply only to civil actions commenced after the commencement date, but there are some that also apply to actions begun before the commencement date and are pending before the court. There are also various transitional provisions in Rules of the High Court (cap.4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap.336H) to facilitate smooth transition of the Civil Justice Reform. Litigants should consult Rules of the High Court, Rules of the District Court and the Practice Directions to note the changes and transitional arrangements that are applicable to their cases.
Leaflet 12 “Civil Justice Reform: Transitional Arrangements” prepared by the Judiciary contains information on some of the transitional arrangements that are likely to be encountered by litigants. The leaflet can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. However, it should be noted that the transitional arrangements outlined in the leaflet are not meant to be exhaustive.

Q5: What is meant by Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and mediation? How can they work to the advantage of parties?

A5: Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) means a process whereby the parties agree to appoint a third party to assist them to settle or resolve their dispute. Settlement negotiations between the parties do not amount to ADR. A common mode of ADR is mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process in which a trained and impartial third person, the mediator, helps the parties in dispute to reach an amicable settlement that is responsive to their needs and acceptable to all sides.
Litigants should note Practice Direction 31 on Mediation, which will take effect on 1 January 2010. Litigants may also refer to the leaflet “What is Mediation” for information on mediation. The Practice Direction and the leaflet are available at the CJR website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q6: What is the difference between the two modes of commencing a civil action in the High Court and District Court, namely by a writ of summons or by an originating summons?

A6: The writ of summons is commonly used for commencing a civil litigation where there is a substantial dispute of the facts between the parties. Originating summons is usually suitable for cases where there is only little or no dispute of fact and the parties only raise issues of law for the Court's determination.

Q7: What is a Statement of Truth?

A7: A statement of truth is a statement by the maker of the document that he believes the facts stated in it are true and/ or (where appropriate) the opinion stated in it is honestly held. Under Order 41A of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), the following documents must be verified by statements of truth: (a) a pleading and its amendment, (b) a witness statement, (c) an expert report and (d) any other document that requires verification by a statement of truth under the provisions of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) or by a practice direction.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. The relevant Practice Direction 19.3 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 6 “What are Statements of Truth”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q8: What is Order 13A Admission?

A8: Under Order 13A of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District (cap. 336H), a defendant in a monetary claim (i.e. the only remedy sought is the payment of money, whether the amount claimed is a liquidated sum or an unliquidated sum) may make admission to the claim and make proposal regarding payment terms. Order 13A admission is also available to a defendant to a counterclaim in which the only remedy claimed is the payment of money.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 7 “How to shorten legal proceedings: Order 13A Admissions in Monetary Claims”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q9: For the purpose of Order 13A admission, what is a liquidated sum and what is an unliquidated sum?

A9: Whether a sum is liquidated or unliquidated is a question of law that litigants should seek explanation and clarification from lawyers.
In general, a claim for a liquidated sum refers to a claim for a specific sum of money. Its amount is either already ascertained or capable of being ascertained as a mere matter of arithmetic calculation. A claim for an unliquidated sum refers to a claim for an unascertained sum that involves investigation beyond calculation and assessment by the court. For the purpose of admission under Order 13A of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), a claim is treated as unliquidated if the claim consists partly of a claim for a liquidated amount of money and partly of a claim for an unliquidated amount of money.

Q10: What is sanctioned offer and sanctioned payment?

A10: Sanctioned offer means a written offer to compromise an action (otherwise than by way of a payment into court) made in accordance with Order 22 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) or Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), as the case may be. Sanctioned payment means an offer to compromise an action made by way of a payment into court in accordance with Order 22 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) or Rules of the District (cap. 336H), as the case maybe.
In taxation proceeding, sanctioned offer is a written offer to settle the whole or part of the costs order, made by the Receiving Party pursuant to Order 62A of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) or Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), as the case may be. A sanctioned payment is a payment into court made by the Paying Party of the amount offered in settlement of the costs order, pursuant to Order 62A of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) or Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), as the case may be.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 8 “How to shorten legal proceedings: Sanctioned offers and sanctioned payments”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q11: How does the Civil Justice Reform affect interlocutory applications and interlocutory appeals?

A11: In accordance with the underlying objectives of the Civil Justice Reform, the process for interlocutory applications and interlocutory appeals is streamlined.
In interlocutory applications, the court may make orders specifying automatic sanctions for non-compliance of their orders. The court may give directions on the procedure of the court and on case management on paper and without a hearing. A party who is found to have made an unnecessary or wasteful interlocutory application will have to bear the costs of that application, even if he ultimately wins the case.
For interlocutory appeals to Court of Appeal from decisions of Judges of the Court of First Instance, leave to appeal is required.

Q12: What is leave to appeal?

A12: There are certain types of appeal that can only be brought with the leave (i.e. permission) of the court. An application for leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal should first be made to the judge or judicial officer giving the judgment or order. If the judge or judicial officer has refused leave, the appealing party may apply to the Court of Appeal for leave to appeal. The rules and practice on appeals are contained in Order 59 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A ) and Order 58 of Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) and also in Practice Direction 4.1.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 4.1 may be downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 10 “How to appeal”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
Q13: How to prepare a statement of costs for summary assessment of costs of an action?

A13: A party who wishes to seek summary assessment of costs should prepare a statement of costs which should, as far as possible, be in the format in Appendix A of Practice Direction 14.3 on Costs. The statement should be signed by the party acting in person or his solicitor. It should be lodged and served on the party against whom summary assessment is sought, together with the skeleton argument for the substantive application.
For details, please refer to Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 14.3 may be downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
Q14: What is the time for complying with the direction or order for summary assessment of costs?

A14: A party shall comply with a direction or order for summary assessment of costs by paying the sum ordered:-
i) within 14 days of the date of the direction or order; or
ii) by such date as the court may specify.
This does not apply if the Paying Party is an aided person.
For details, please refer to Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice.
Q15: What may a party do if he is not satisfied with an order nisi made by a Master?

A15: In general, a Master may, without an oral hearing, give directions on the procedure of the court or on case management summons by way of an order nisi and without a hearing. The parties may apply by way of an inter-partes summons to vary the order nisi within 14 days after the order nisi is made. If there is no application to vary, the order nisi will become absolute 14 days after it is made.

Q16: What are the rules and practice on case management?

A16: The rules and practice on case management are contained in Order 1A, rule 4, Order 1B and Order 25 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) and also Practice Direction 5.2 on Case Management.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 5.2 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. A brief explanation can also be found in Leaflet 3 “What are the stages in a civil action”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q17: How will the court give directions for the management of a case?

A17: To facilitate the court to give directions for the management of a case, the parties shall file and serve the Timetabling Questionnaire (see Appendix A of Practice Direction 5.2 for the form of the Questionnaire). If the parties are able to agree on the directions relating to the management of the case or a timetable for the steps to be taken up to the date of the trial, the plaintiff shall procure and file a consent summons containing the agreed directions or timetable for the court’s consideration and approval. If the parties are unable to agree on all the directions or the timetable, or if the defendant does not file a Timetabling Questionnaire, or the action involves one or more unrepresented litigant, the plaintiff shall take out a case management summons (see Appendix B of Practice Direction 5.2 for a sample). The court will consider the Questionnaires and other documents file or lodged and give directions accordingly.
For details, please see Order 25 of Rules of the High Court (cap.4A) or Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), as the case may be, and Practice Direction 5.2 on case management. To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 5.2 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q18: What is Timetabling Questionnaire?

A18: For the purpose of facilitating the giving directions for the management of a case, the parties are required to file a questionnaire (also called Timetabling Questionnaire) within 28 days after the pleadings are deemed to be closed. Please refer to Appendix A of Practice Direction 5.2 for the form of a Timetabling Questionnaire. The parties shall consult each other and try to agree on a timetable for the progress of the case up to trial. Based on the agreement of the parties and/or the information in the Timetabling Questionnaires, the court will set a timetable for the progress of the case. A court-determined timetable will set ‘milestone dates’ for the major steps in the proceedings and these dates must be adhered to.
For details, please see Order 25 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) and Practice Direction 5.2.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 5.2 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 3 “What are the stages in a civil action”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
Q19: What is the procedure for adducing expert evidence at trial?

A19: A party who wishes to adduce expert evidence at the trial has to obtain permission from the court first. The application for permission to call expert witness is usually made after pleadings are closed. The application may be made by filling in the relevant section in the Timetabling Questionnaire. Please refer to Appendix A of Practice Direction 5.2 on Case Management for the form of a Timetabling Questionnaire. The Practice Direction can be found on the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
The parties may also consider agreeing on the appointment of a single joint expert.
For details, please refer to Order 38 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 4 “How to prepare for a hearing or trial”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
Q20: What is meant by "milestone dates"?

A20: Under Order 25 rule 1B (8) of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Order 25, rule 3(8) of Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H), “milestone date” means a date that the Court has fixed for a case management conference, a pre-trial review, the trial or the period in which a trial is to take place. The parties may not vary the milestone dates by consent. They have to make an application to the court for doing so. The court will only vary the milestone dates in exceptional circumstances.
All parties have to attend the hearing or trial on the milestone dates. Failure to attend these hearings or the trial can lead to very serious consequences.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. The relevant Practice Direction 5.2 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 3 “What are the stages in a civil action”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q21: What is a Case Management Conference?

A21: The court will fix a Case Management Conference, if its of the opinion that it is desirable to do so, having regard to the questionnaire and the needs of the case, fix a Case Management Conference. A Case Management Conference is a milestone event. Failure to attend a Case Management Conference may lead to serious consequences. The court will at a Case Management Conference fix a timetable for the progress of the case and may set various deadlines for the steps to be taken by the parties before the trial, including the service of lists of documents and exchange of witness statements and expert reports. The court may also give directions for setting down the action for trial or fix the trial date.
For details, please see Order 25 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) and Practice Direction 5.2.
For details of the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice. Practice Direction 5.2 is accessible at the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 3 “What are the stages in a civil action”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.
Q22: How to restore a claim or counterclaim provisionally struck out by the court as a result of non-appearance of the party concerned at a Case Management Conference or the Pre-Trial Review?

A22: If a plaintiff or a defendant does not appear at a Case Management Conference or the Pre-Trial Review, the court will provisionally strike out his claim or counterclaim, as the case may be. The party concerned may, before the expiration of 3 months from the date of the Case Management Conference or the Pre-Trial Review, apply to the court for restoration of the claim or counterclaim. The Court may restore the claim or counterclaim subject to conditions or it may refuse to restore it. The court shall not restore a claim or counterclaim unless good reasons are shown to its satisfaction.
For details, please see Order 25 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice.
Q23: What is taxation of costs?

A23: Taxation of costs is the process whereby the court assesses the amount of costs payable under the costs order. In the taxation proceedings, the court can only decide the amount of costs but cannot vary the costs order already made. For the rules and procedures on taxation of costs, please refer to Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk , which is maintained by the Department of Justice. For the court practice relating to taxation of costs, please refer to Practice Direction 14.3, which can be downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk. For general reference, please refer to Leaflet 11 “What is taxation of costs”, which can be obtained from the Resource Centre for Unrepresented Litigants or downloaded from the Civil Justice Reform website at www.civiljustice.hk.

Q24: Does the new taxation procedure in Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) apply to bills of costs filed before the commencement of the Civil Justice Reform, with the call-over hearing being fixed for a date after the commencement?

A24: The new taxation procedure in Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H) (including the filing of a Notice of Commencement of Taxation) does not apply to bills of costs filed before the commencement of the Civil Justice Reform, and the procedure in force before the commencement date continues to apply.
For details, please refer to Order 62 of Rules of the High Court (cap. 4A) and Rules of the District Court (cap. 336H). To read the legislations, please visit the Bilingual Laws Information System (BLIS) at www.elegislation.gov.hk, which is maintained by the Department of Justice.

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This publication is for general reference only and should not be treated as a complete and authoritative statement of law or court practice. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided is accurate, it does not constitute legal or other professional advice.

Please note: The Judiciary cannot be held responsible for the contents of this publication.
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