Supreme Court of the Netherlands
|Supreme Court of the Netherlands|
|Hoge Raad der Nederlanden|
|Country||Netherlands, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, Aruba|
|Location||The Hague, Netherlands|
|Composition method||Selected by the House of Representatives on advice of the Supreme Court and appointed by Royal Order.|
|Authorized by||Constitution of the Netherlands
Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
|Judge term length||Appointed for life until retired at 70|
|Number of positions||41|
|President of the Supreme Court|
|Since||1 October 2008|
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The Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Dutch: Hoge Raad der Nederlanden Dutch pronunciation: [ˈhoːɣə raːd dɛr ˈneːdərlɑndə(n)], literally 'High Council of the Netherlands') is the highest court of the Netherlands, Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba. The Court was established on 1 October 1838 and sits in The Hague, Netherlands.
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court is limited primarily to civil, criminal and tax-related cases. The Court has the authority to overturn rulings by appellate courts (cassation) and therefore establishes case law, but only if the lower court applied the law incorrectly or the ruling lacks sufficient reasoning; facts are no longer subject of discussion. The Court may not rule on the constitutionality of laws passed by the States-General and treaties. Hence the Netherlands has no constitutional court (except in Sint Maarten).
The Supreme Court consists of 41 judges: a president, 6 vice-presidents, 31 justices (raadsheren, literally means 'lords of the council') and 3 justices  in exceptional service (buitengewone dienst). All judges are appointed for life, until they retire at their own request or at the age of 70.
The development of cassation in the Netherlands was heavily influenced by the French during the Batavian Revolution at the end of 18th century. The establishment of the Supreme Court on 1838 brought an end to the Grote Raad van Mechelen and its successor the Hoge Raad van Holland, Zeeland en West-Friesland, which both served as high appellate courts.
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In the Netherlands a case is first heard by one of the ten district courts (rechtbanken). Afterwards, either side may appeal to one of the four courts of appeal (gerechtshoven). Finally, either party may file a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court.
Composition and current membership
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Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by Royal Decree, from a list of three, advised by the House of Representatives on the advice of the Hoge Raad itself. The judges are, like every other judge in the Netherlands, appointed for life, until they either die or retire at their own reafter reaching the age of 70. Upon reaching the age of 60, a justice may change status to exceptional (also known as special) service, with the effect that the judge no longer plays a full role at the court.
The Supreme Court is divided into four chambers: the first or civil chamber, the second or criminal chamber, the third or tax chamber and the fourth or 'ombuds' chamber. The members of the fourth chamber are chosen ad hoc, but will include the president of the court.
First chamber (civil matters)
- Ernst Numann, vice-president and chairman
- Floris Bakels, vice-president
- Annemarie van Buchem-Spapens, justice
- Kees Streefkerk, justice
- Toon Heisterkamp, justice
- Marc Loth, justice
- Coen Drion, justice
- Gerbrant Snijders, justice
- Martijn Polak, justice
- Dineke de Groot, justice
Second chamber (criminal matters)
- Willem van Schendel, vice-president and chairman
- Leo van Dorst, vice-president
- Geert Corstens, president of the Supreme Court
- Bon de Savornin Lohman, justice
- Jaap de Hullu, justice
- Tineke Splinter-Van Kan, justice
- Wilma Groos, justice
- Ybo Buruma, justice
- Jules Wortel, justice
- Nico Jörg, justice
- Vincent van den Brink, justice
- Jeppe Balkema, justice in exceptional service
- Jan Ilsink, justice in exceptional service
Third chamber (tax matters)
- Jacques Overgaauw, vice-president and chairman
- Maarten Feteris, vice-president
- Dick van Vliet, justice
- Bernard Bavinck, justice
- Liesbeth Punt, justice
- Cees Schaap, justice
- Kees Sterk, justice
- Piet van Loon, justice
- Marc Fierstra, justice
- Robert Koopman, justice
- Theo Groeneveld, justice
- Loek van Kalmthout
- Anne van der Putt-Lauwers, justice in exceptional service
- Peter Lourens, justice in exceptional service
- Jaap van den Berge, justice in exceptional service
Second World War
During the German occupation, the Supreme Court kept functioning. In November 1940 the occupiers forced the president, Judge L.E. Visser, to resign because he was Jewish. Visser's colleagues did not protest. The members who remained also signed a compulsory declaration about Aryans.
After the liberation, people reproached the Court for a weak and legalistic attitude. The Court wished above all to guarantee the continuity of the jurisdiction and not to become involved in politics. However such chances as there were to take a stand on principle against the Germans were largely missed. The Justices either omitted to give a moral example or felt they were not in a position to do so. This was demonstrated in a so-called "Test sentence", (Supreme Court, 12 January 1942, NJ 1942/271), in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Dutch judge was not permitted to contest the decrees of the occupying force on the basis of international law, in particular the 1907 regulation prescribed for a country at war. In this the Supreme Court followed the advice of the barrister-general A. Rombach. The judgment concerned a case in which a man was sentenced by the economic judge for an "economic offence" (the purchase of pork without valid coupons). The counsel for the accused, P. Groeneboom, attested in his defence before the Supreme Court on 27 October 1941 that the judge had the authority to challenge the regulations of the occupying force on the basis of the regulation prescribed for a country at war, the decree of the Führer and the first regulation of the government commissioner. When the Supreme Court (in a judgment of 12 January 1942) denied the possibility of contesting rules issued by the National Socialist oppressors, the Netherlands followed what was the rule in Germany and Italy too. On the basis of two emergency measures Hitler had the authority to issue incontestable rules and the legal establishment acknowledged its own incompetence to challenge "political" measures. "Political" in this case was what the political authorities considered to be political. In Italy the Court of Appeal recognised the free authority of Mussolini and the judge's lack of authority to control it. Meihuizen says about the Dutch test sentence: "A sentence with far-reaching consequences because with this, barristers were not given the chance to bring before the judge the question of the validity of legislation which had been issued by or on behalf of the occupier.":85 The Supreme Court defended this sentence in retrospect with the conjecture that the Germans would never accept it being contested and might have intervened in a negative way with the legal establishment, resulting in a further diminishing of citizens' legal protection.
In 1943 the seat of the Supreme Court was temporarily moved from The Hague to Nijmegen. With the liberation of Nijmegen in September 1944, this led to a situation in which, although the seat was on liberated ground, most of the Justices found themselves still in occupied territory. After the war, there was not much done to clear matters, lawyers who had collaborated with the Germans generally kept their jobs or got important other positions. A crucial role in this affair was played by J. Donner, who became president of the Supreme Court in 1946.
- "Benoeming mr. G.J.M. Corstens tot president van de Hoge Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). Hoge Raad der Nederlanden. 2008-04-15. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. 2007-07-27. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Geschiedenis van de Hoge Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. 2004-09-18. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- "Supreme Court". Rechtspraak.nl. De Rechtspraak. 2009-08-10. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- According to article 120 of the Constitution of the Netherlands, judges will not rule on the constitutionality of laws passed by the States-General and treaties.
- "Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. 2004-10-14. Retrieved 2009-12-02.
- Corjo Jansen en Derk Venema, "The Supreme Court and the Second World War" (in Dutch), Boom, Amsterdam, 2011.
- Derk Venema, "Judges in war time: The Dutch judiciary's confrontation with national socialism and the occupation" (in Dutch), Boom, Amsterdam, 2007.
- Joggli Meihuizen, "Narrow Margins. The Dutch Bar during World War II." (in Dutch), Boom, Amsterdam, 2010 (an English summary was also published by Boom, Amsterdam, 2010).
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