Another senior judge to leave judiciary

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 June, 2012, 12:00am


The judiciary will lose another senior judge in the next three months with the departure of Admiralty judge Mr Justice Anselmo Reyes to a teaching position at the University of Hong Kong.

Reyes will step down as Admiralty judge at the end of this week to be replaced by Mr Justice Aarif Barma, but will continue to sit as duty judge until mid-September when he will leave.

Reyes, born in 1959, is leaving 12 years before the official retirement age. His departure comes as the judiciary is facing an ageing pool of judges as it struggles to fill vacant posts for judges and magistrates. Half of the 38 judges working in the Court of Final Appeal, Court of Appeal and Court of First Instance are over 60, while there were vacancies for 19 judges and 26 magistrates in March. Court of Final Appeal judge Mr Justice Kemal Bokhary is set to leave the judiciary in October when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 65.

Reyes declined to be interviewed, but the South China Morning Post confirmed his departure in an e-mail from his clerk, Carmen Cheung Shuk-ching. His last public hearing is expected to be on Friday, although he does not step down as judge in charge of the Admiralty and Commercial Lists until the following day.

During a court hearing on Monday, Reyes confirmed Barma would succeed him next week as Admiralty judge. He gave no reasons for his departure, but legal sources said he was unhappy at being overlooked for promotion to the Court of Appeal last year. One legal source said: 'Anselmo has a sharp legal brain. He was involved in the civil justice reform process and was a member of the justice reform monitoring committee. He is one of the few judges to encourage law students to come into his courtroom and watch proceedings, so it was a surprise that he has not been elevated to the appeal court.'

Sources said Reyes was ready to leave the judiciary a year ago, but was persuaded to remain although several lawyers contacted yesterday were not aware of his imminent departure.

Peter Mills, a partner in Hart Giles, had not heard, but said: 'Certainly I will miss him. He cuts to the chase without getting too immersed in peripheral details. He's been very good news, although he's not everyone's cup of tea. He's exactly what we needed in Admiralty Court.'

Reyes, a special lecturer at HKU, was born in Manila and gained a doctorate in law from Cambridge University and was a law lecturer at HKU before being appointed a deputy judge at the Court of First Instance in 2002. He was made a High Court judge on the same day as Barma on September 15, 2003. Reyes became Admiralty judge in 2008.