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Judicial systems in Member States - Netherlands

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This page provides an overview of the judicial system in the Netherlands.

Justice organisation — legal systems

Administration of courts

The Council is part of the judicial system, but it is not itself a right. The Council took over the responsibility for a number of tasks from the Minister of Justice. These management tasks include the distribution of financial resources, the supervision of financial management, human resources, ICT and housing. The Council shall support the courts in carrying out their tasks in these areas. In addition, the Council’s role is to improve the quality of the judicial system and to advise on new legislation affecting justice. In addition, the Council acts as the spokesman for the case-law in the social and political debate. The tasks of the Council relate to the conduct of business (in the broadest sense of the term), budgetary matters and the qualitative aspects of the case-law.

The Council has a central role in the preparation, implementation and accountability of the financing of the judicial system. The financing is based on a work load measurement system managed by the Council. It encourages the development of operational procedures for the day-to-day management of the courts and monitors this process. Its specific tasks are human resources, housing, ICT and external affairs. The Council has a number of formal legal powers which allow it to carry out these tasks. Thus, for example, the Council has the power to give binding general directions in the field of business management, even though it uses that power as little as possible.

The Council shall be responsible for the recruitment, selection and training of judicial and judicial officials. He/she shall perform these tasks in close consultation with the court’s boards. The Council has an important vote in appointing members on these boards.

The role of the Council in the field of quality of justice is to promote uniform application of law and increase legal quality. Because of the link with the content of the case-law, it does not have any binding powers.

The Council also has a general advisory function. It advises the government on new legislation that has an impact on the case law. They shall be subject to constant consultation with the councils of the courts.

Although the Council has formal powers, the relationship between the Council and the courts should not be seen as a hierarchical relationship. Its primary objective is to support the courts in carrying out their functions. To perform these tasks properly, the Council holds regular consultations with the Presidents of the Courts, Directors, Sector Presidents and the College of Delegates (an advisory body composed of representatives of the courts).

Types of courts — brief description


The Netherlands is divided into 11 arrondissements, each of which has its own court. There are a number of district settlements in each court. The court shall comprise a minimum of four sectors. This includes, in all cases, the administrative, civil, criminal and canton sectors. Family and youth often fall under a separate sector, as is sometimes the case with foreign nationals. It is for the administration of the court to decide.



For ordinary citizens, it is relatively easy to have their case dealt with in the canton sector. Treatment in this sector means that they should be allowed to promote their own case and not to involve a lawyer representing them in legal proceedings. In the area of civil law, the Kantonrechter treats all rent, hire and work cases, as well as disputes over claims up to EUR 25 000.

In criminal matters, the cantonal judge deals only with minor criminal cases (offences). These are often cases in which the police or prosecutor has proposed a settlement. If the accused refuses to accept the proposal, the case will be before the cantonal judge. The Kantonrechter (Cantonal Court) usually decides on the matter immediately after the hearing.

Criminal law

The judges in the criminal justice sector deal with all criminal cases that do not come before the cantonal judge. The treatment may be either in single chambers or in multiple chambers with three judges. The multiple chamber deals with the more complicated cases and all cases for which the public prosecutor requires more than one year of imprisonment.

Civil law/family

The civil justice sector also deals with cases not specifically allocated to the cantonal judge. In most cases, a single judge in these cases is judge, but there are multiple chambers with three judges to deal with the more complicated cases. A number of courts have a separate sector for family and youth: this is the case when such cases occur frequently.

Administrative law

In only a few exceptions, administrative disputes should always be before the court; in many cases, administrative proceedings are preceded by an administrative appeal procedure before the administrative authorities. Usually these cases should be for the single judge, but also in this case the court may decide to designate three judges as a complex case or a case involving fundamental issues. If the court in question does not have a separate sector for dealing with alien’s affairs, these are dealt with by the administrative law or a department thereof. The action in civil service cases and cases concerning social security is a matter for a specialised appeal body — the Centrale Raad van Beroep — and, in most other cases, before the Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak van de Raad van State (Administrative Law Division of the Council of State).


The 11 arrondissements were grouped into four districts, the areas of operation of the four courts: The Hague and Amsterdam, Arnhem-Leeuwarden and s-Hertogenbosch. In the area of criminal and civil justice, the judges of the courts deal exclusively with cases where appeals have been lodged against the judgment of a court. The Court reexamines the facts of the case and comes to its own findings. In most cases, the decision of the Court of Appeal can be challenged by appealing to the Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Supreme Court of the Netherlands). In addition to criminal and civil cases, the court deals with all appeals against tax assessments.

Special courts

The Centrale Raad van Beroep is an appeal body dealing mainly with civil service cases and social security matters. In these areas, it is the supreme court. The Centrale Raad van Beroep is established in Utrecht.

The College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven (College van Beroep voor het bedrijfsleven) is a special administrative college which rules on disputes in the field of socio-economic administrative law. In addition, the College is the Appellate Body for certain Acts, such as the Competition Act and the Telecommunicatiewet. The College is located in The Hague.

Supreme Court

The Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (Supreme Court of the Netherlands), established in The Hague, examines whether the lower court has applied the law correctly in making its decision. The facts of the case, as established by the lower court, are no longer open to discussion. The appeal in cassation plays an important role in the promotion of the legal unit.

Legal databases

Further information can be found on the website for Link opens in new windowthe judicial organisation in the Netherlands.

Case law can be found in a single Link opens in new windowlegal database.

Is access to these databases free of charge?

Yes, access is free of charge.

Related Links

Link opens in new windowCase-law

This is a machine translated version of the content. The owner of this page accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to the quality of this machine translated text.

Last update: 11/12/2019