The Quality and Innovation programme (KEI) was designed first and foremost for people requiring legal assistance. It reflects the Council of the Judiciary’s ambition that, a few years from now, complex, official, expensive and time-consuming legal proceedings would be a thing of the past. If this will be the case is questionable at best, but we are hopeful that KEI will at least prove to be a successful first step in in the right direction of digitalization legal proceedings in the Netherlands.
The existing system, mainly based on paper filings of court documents, will be largely replaced by standardized, online proceedings for administrative and civil cases. This means that lawyers and in some cases parties themselves, can fill out online templates or upload court documents in an online communication platform which can be accessed by the court and by the (lawyer of the) counter party.
The online communication platform and the use of templates are supposed to serve the public more efficiently, and they are also easier to digitize than the current proceedings in all their varieties.
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.
In the new system litigants or their lawyers can start proceedings online by providing the name of the counter party, the claim and the legal title and the facts of the claim. Upon submission the litigant will be due court fees and once paid, the court will proceed to provide a first procedural document, namely the summons for the counter party. This summons will need to be served to the counter party – and this is a responsibility of the claimant. The court summons will provide the counter party a unique code, which will allow them to access the communication platform and upload the defense against the claim. The court will then convene a hearing. Parties may also indicate that they wish the court to order witness hearings, expert reports or to utilize other legal tools to make their case. When the court is satisfied it can render its verdict it may upload this in the online communication platform.
The new system is expected to be nationally applicable for civil law cases with a value above EUR 25.000 as of the summer 2017. The districts of Midden-Nederland and Gelderland are to lead the way as of spring 2017.
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