The Netherlands’ top judge warns on legal system overload

The quality of the Dutch legal system is under threat from the extreme pressure judges are being forced to work under, according to the Netherlands’ most senior judge.

In a letter printed in the newspaper, Geert Corstens throws his weight behind a protest manifesto signed by over 700 of the country’s 2,500 judges last December. In that document, judges said they were being put under so much pressure cases did not get the attention they deserved.

Corstens is chief judge at the Netherlands’ supreme court, the Hoge Raad.

NRC journalist Folkert Jensma says it is extremely unusual for a senior judge to make his position clear in public, given that the legal system is supposed to be independent of politics.

In his letter, Corstens says many judges feel they are expected to work at a pace which is ‘far too high’. While the number of cases a judge has to deal with has not changed in 28 years, they have become far more complex, he said.

Corstens says there needs to be independent research into judges’ workload, which can then be used as the basis for debate and the ‘fair and realistic choices’ which are needed.


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