Earlier this year, the Council for the Judiciary released a plan to establish a Netherlands Commercial Court (NCC). In the plan it was stated that the NCC would start on the 1st of January 2017. By now, a starting date of July 1st, 2017 seems more realistic. The upcoming Brexit makes this, in itself already stimulating, plan even more interesting. Will this boost the chances for this special provision for international commercial cases in Amsterdam? In this blog I will discuss the reasons for this initiative, the innovative aspects of it and its chances of success in light of the Brexit. Continue reading
Increasingly, in the West, in the class rooms of law schools and offices of foreign ministries, international law is being associated exclusively with courts and tribunals. The idea seems to be that something can only be regarded as law if it emanates from an international court. This judicialization of international law overlooks the fact that these international bodies owe their existence to treaties, which are concluded by states, which still are the main actors in international law. Continue reading
Having a split personality is usually not seen as a positive thing. Not for the outside world, and not for the person itself. Robert Stevenson’s novel about Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde famously showed how the constant shifting between personalities can almost destroy someone. A clear and unified self-perception and image is the preferred style of identity in almost all fields of life and practice, from organizational science to marketing or psychology. Choices have to be made for the sake of clarity and efficiency, but also for the mere functioning of a person or organization it seems.
From this perspective, it is no surprise that the history of the main guardian institution of the ECHR, the European Court of Human Rights, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on the 4th of November, has been marked by an almost constant discussion about the Court’s role and focus. The text of the Convention itself seemed straightforward enough about the function of the Strasbourg Court. It states in Article 19 that the Court was created “to ensure the observance of the engagements undertaken by the High Contracting Parties.” But the ways in which this can be done has led to deep soul-searching within the Court and a lot of debate outside of it. Should the Court focus on the role of provider of individual justice in the applications that represent the large bulk of its docket? Or should it, for principled or pragmatic reasons take an altogether different, more constitutional role, ruling on principles and structures rather than the nitty-gritty of each individual case? Continue reading
Judges in the Netherlands are rebelling against the endless series of changes in the organization of the judiciary. What is occurring is more than a simple merger; the organization has become too dominant in the judges’ work.
Judges do substantive work. They give judgments in other people’s disputes. To be able to do that work well they must be properly educated and trained. High demands are imposed on judges. Judges’ work is very diverse. The work of a family-court judge is usually content-wise less difficult than the work of commercial court judge. But where the commercial court judge can immerse himself in a difficult legal puzzle, the family-court judge must be able to deal with strong emotions and accommodate them during a hearing. With the internationalization and the Europeanization of the law, the judicial tasks have become more difficult substantively. This is the case in all legal areas. The Council for the Judiciary was installed to lead the necessary changes within the judges’ work in the right direction. It appears that now the Ministry of Security and Justice and the Council for the Judiciary have overplayed their hand in relation to the judges. Continue reading
This week I realized that during my entire professional life I have had to deal with changes. This already started when I was still working at the UU from 1985 until 1994. Simply in the education I experienced the semester system (2 teaching periods), the ‘block system’ (5 teaching periods) and the trimester system (3 teaching periods). At that time most colleagues found these changes a good idea. But good ideas are also time-bound. So I was not surprised that when I returned to the UU in 2012, I found a system of four teaching periods.
And, once again back in time, I was only working for a few years at the courts when major changes were announced. Since 1999, the courts have immensely professionalized and modernized themselves as an organization. As a court manager I have stood on the front line for ten years, it was a golden age to witness and – on a modest scale – help shape. Continue reading
As was proved yet again last week in the Second Chamber, there is great interest in the budget cuts made to the legal aid system. And rightly so, because this ultimately concerns the quality of the rule of law. In the past few years the government has taken various measures which affect the access to justice. This has led to public debates on several fronts. The First Chamber organised an expert meeting on the 4th of February 2014 with authoritative legal experts and subsequently organised a debate on the 11th of March 2014 about the current state of the rule of law. What became extremely apparent from the expert meeting and the debate is that a widespread feeling exists that the quality of the rule of law in the Netherlands is currently under pressure. The concerns on the access to justice are illustrated by the various motions that were carried by the First Chamber. In January of this year it became clear that state secretary Teeven wanted to continue the cuts in the legal aid budget despite the critique from the First Chamber. In February 2015 the government decided that the former mayor of Utrecht, Wolfsen, should be chairman of the committee that is currently researching the rise in costs of the subsidized legal aid. Continue reading
The provincial elections were considered a test case for the current cabinet, since the provincial councils also elect the Senate of the Dutch Parliament. The elections were accompanied by a debate on whether we should get rid of the Dutch Senate. Politicians from one of the coalition parties pleaded for the abolition of the Senate, because the Senate can block legislative bills from becoming law. Seeing as the indirect election of this body does not run simultaneously with the election of the House of Representatives, coalition governments with a majority in the House of Representatives, may have to deal with minority support in the Senate. This can be inconvenient for the parties supporting the government in the House of Representatives. The entire idea of checks and balances between different state bodies in order to counterbalance the exercise of government power, however, seems to be an alien concept to those debaters. They also do not seem to care much about the quality of representative democracy, as they only want to have a more efficient decision making process for the majority. Instead of discussing more efficient decision making at the detriment of effective voting rights of citizens, we should focus on how we can reinforce the democratic position of citizens. Continue reading