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International News

Dutch Courts Confirm Public Access To Records

June 24, 2024 posted by Steve Brownstein

 In a landmark judgment, the Dutch Supreme Court ruled on 21 April 2023 that Dutch courts must make case details publicly accessible. This concerns details such as the parties involved, the status of the proceedings, hearing dates and any judgments issued. While the case file will not be public, it will be easier for interested parties to learn about the hearing and observe the arguments made there. With this ruling, companies will be able to better monitor relevant litigation in the Netherlands.
 It is hard for third parties to learn about pending litigation and to obtain details on the status of proceedings. Lawyers admitted to the Dutch bar can search the official case registers if they have a case number. Courts rarely provide case details by phone to parties who are not the litigants or their representatives. Exceptions are only made for the press. There are some ways to monitor pending litigation, but they are case specific (for example, preliminary referrals to the Supreme Court) or highly impractical.
 All of this will change with the Supreme Court's judgment, prompted by Advocate General Wesseling-Van Gent in a Supreme Court appeal in the interest of the law. The Advocate General argued that the current practice is contrary to the fundamental principle of public administration of justice, a right that is enshrined in Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. The Advocate General argued that a hearing cannot be considered public if third parties are unable to find out if and when a hearing will take place.
 The Supreme Court agreed with the Advocate General. In its ruling, it stated that Dutch courts must make case details publicly accessible, subject to limited exceptions.
 First, courts must provide information about the time and place of public hearings; the cases that will be heard; and the names of presiding judges. Courts may, for example, do so by publishing a hearing agenda on their websites. Personal details may be anonymised in the agenda to safeguard privacy. If the court is asked by a member of the public for the time and place of a public hearing in a specific case, the court must enable that person to attend the hearing.
 Second, the Supreme Court noted that judgments are issued in public, which means that anyone should be able request a copy of a judgment. People may, for example, ask a court for all judgments in cases involving a specific party.
 Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that courts must make an overview of pending cases publicly available. The overview must include the case number, the parties involved, and the status of the proceedings. Again, personal details may be anonymised in the interest of privacy. In addition, lawyers and other involved individuals must be able to know if a case is pending between certain parties.
Link:  https://www.debrauw.com/articles/dutch-courts-to-make-case-details-and-hearing-dates-publicly-accessible

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