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The Netherlands: Digitization of Legal System

(July 29, 2016) On July 12, 2016, the Dutch Senate (Eerste Kamer) adopted four pieces of legislation that will implement the digitization of the legal system in the Netherlands. The new provisions will be implemented in phases, beginning in early 2017.  (Senate Votes in Favour of Digitisation of Legal System, Ministry of Security and Justice website (July 12, 2016); KEI, Eerste Kamer website (last visited July 27, 2016) (in Dutch) (has links to each item of legislation).) The legislation establishes the Quality and Innovation in the Legal System Program (“KEI programme”), a collaborative undertaking of the Ministry of Security and Justice and the judiciary aimed at both digitizing and simplifying civil and administrative proceedings and at creating “a more accessible legal system, a system that can work faster and [be] better able to provide custom solutions.”  (Senate Votes in Favour of Digitisation of Legal System, supra.)

Under the new system, litigants can submit civil and administrative case procedural documents, such as divorce petitions, payment dispute documents, or permit dispute documents, in digital form for assessment by the court. (Id.)  The legislation furthers transparency of proceedings by enabling litigants to access a digital file (Mijn Zaak) that allows them to follow all the steps in the process.  (Id.)  It is expected that lawyers, who often still communicate by fax, according to the Ministry of Security and Justice, will benefit from digital communication with the court.  Citizens involved in lawsuits who do not have lawyers will still be able, however, to conduct proceedings in paper format.  (Id.)

In regard to simplification of civil procedures, the basic proceedings will be “one written round and one oral hearing before the court, followed by a judgment,” with the oral hearing occurring early in the process, so that the judge meets with the parties at an early stage to obtain more information, hear witnesses, and so on. (Id.)  A judgment will typically be rendered within six weeks after the oral hearing, but the judge will be able to supplement the basic proceedings in complicated cases with an additional written or oral round.  (Id.)