Civil Justice: Access, Cost, and Expedition. The Netherlands
The Dutch court system is made up of four levels of courts of general jurisdiction: local; district; and regional courts; surmounted by the High Court for final appeals. Each level has its own separate civil and criminal sections.
Nationally, there are:
Sixty-two local courts (kanton-gerecht). Local courts handle petty crime and small claims. They also have jurisdiction in all tenancy matters, and family cases. In 1994, there were 139 judges in local courts. In 1999, local courts will be administratively integrated with the district courts. However, more than 50 local court offices will remain open, complete with judges and administrative staff, for the hearing of cases.
Nineteen district courts (rechtbank). These courts have original jurisdiction in those cases where more serious criminal charges or larger sums are at stake (presently Dfl. 5,000 or more). They also hear appeals from local court decisions involving a sum of at least Dfl. 2,500. Figures for 1994 showed about 850 judges in the district courts.
Five regional courts (Hof van Justitie or Gerechtshof). The regional courts hear appeals from the district courts. They also have original jurisdiction in fiscal matters, and certain other specified matters, regarded as of some symbolic importance, such as high treason, and matters involving threats to the security of the state. In 1994, the total regional court bench consisted of 224 judges.
The High Court (Hoge Raad). The High Court is the final court of appeal of general jurisdiction. The High Court is able to review cases only on their legal merits (cassation). It is divided into three divisions -- civil, penal, and fiscal. Of its three chambers, the one dealing with fiscal matters is the biggest, having 11 members, as compared to 10 in the penal, and 9 in the civil chambers.