Netherlands in Europe

Outline of the Country´s Legal System

According to the work “Guide to Foreign and International Citations”, by the Journal of International Law and Politics (New York University School of Law):

“Executive power is vested in the Government. The Government is nominally headed by the Monarch, whose duties are largely ceremonial. Executive power is exercised primarily by executive cabinet, the Prime Minister, and the Council of Ministers. The Monarch’s functions include reading the Troonrede, a presentation of the most important governmental plans for the coming year, on the third Tuesday of September. During elections, the Monarch appoints the person who is in charge of the formation of a new cabinet. The cabinet consists of fourteen ministers, headed by the Prime Minister, who are selected from the party or parties who hold a majority of the seats in Parliament.

The Council of State (De Raad van State), composed of the Monarch, the heir apparent, and the Councilor, advises the Prime Minister regarding legislation, signature and ratification of international treaties, and other matters which should, by law, be heard by the Council of State before the Government can act. Furthermore, the Council can give unsolicited advice to the Government.

Legislative power is vested in a bicameral legislature. Within the legislature, the First Chamber (Eerste Kamer) has seventy-five members who are elected by members of the Provincial governors (Provinciale Staten). Its tasks include rejecting or accepting legislation (it cannot propose legislation), and controlling the cabinet. The 150 members of the Second Chamber (Tweede Kamer) are directly elected by the people. The Second Chamber controls the
cabinet, and has the right to change, approve or reject a legislation proposed by the Government. The most important legislation is that passed by both chambers that constitute the States General (Staten Generaal) together with the central government, the Crown (Kroon) together with the ministers.

The Netherlands’ legal system is based on the civil law tradition.

Judicial power is vested in the courts. Dutch courts usually have three different chambers: civil law, criminal law, and administrative law chambers. There are four levels of courts. The lowest level is comprised of the sixty-two subdistrict sector courts (Kantongerechten), each administered by one judge, which are distributed over the whole country and serve as courts of first instance in labor and rent disputes, and claims involving small amounts of money. The second level courts, serving as courts of first instance in other matters such as administrative law, are the District Courts (Rechtbanken). There are nineteen District Courts. Each consists of several chambers comprised of three judges, one of which is the presiding judge. The third level courts are the five Courts of Appeal (Gerechtshoven), which serve as general courts of appeal and courts of first instance for tax law. The Courts of Appeal also consist of several chambers, again comprised of three judges, including a presiding one. Some of these courts have divisions that handle cases in particular subject areas, such as enterprise or military issues.

The highest court is the Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Hoge Raad), which deals with matters of criminal law, tax law, and private law. The Supreme Court is also divided in three chambers, composed of three or five judges (except in cases against government officials, transgressions by MPs, ministers, constitutional committees and provincial governors, in which there are ten judges). The administrative law system consists of several supreme courts: the Afdeling bestuursrechtspraak, which is part of the Raad van State and has jurisdiction primarily
over planning law and environmental law; the “Centrale Raad van Beroep”, which deals primarily with matters related to social security and civil servants; and the “College van beroep voor het bedrijfsleven”, which deals with trade and economic administrative law matters.

The most important form of local government are the municipalities (gemeenten). There are approximately 670 municipalities, which are run by a directly elected council that varies in size from seven to forty-five members depending on population.”

Online Resources:

  • Access to all government sites:
  • Parliament:
  • First Chamber:
  • Second Chamber:
  • Council of State:
  • Judicial system:

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