By Oswald Jansen
Update by Dorien Snoek
Dorien Snoek is subject librarian for private law, constitutional- and administrative law and legal history at the Utrecht University Library. She also instructs academic staff and students in information research methodology.
Published July/August 2017
Table of Contents
- 1. The Dutch Legal System
- 2. Sources of law
- 3. Legal Resources and References
- 4. Law Schools and the Legal Profession
The Kingdom of the Netherlands (Koninkrijk der Nederlanden) was founded in 1813. It was part of France from 1795 until 1813, before 1795, the greater part of the current territory was governed by a confederation of sovereign provinces (Republiek der Verenigde Nederlanden).
Since 1814 there has been a hereditary monarchy, occupied in turn by Kings William I, William II and William III, followed by the Princess Regent Emma and Queens Wilhelmina, Juliana, Beatrix and King Willem-Alexander.
Some former colonies (the Dutch Caribbean) are still part of the Kingdom. From October 2010, the Kingdom consists of four countries: Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and the Netherlands and three public entities associated with the Netherlands: Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (BES islands). These BES islands are in terms of legislation and practical functioning much like Dutch municipalities. For more general information about the legal system of the Dutch Caribbean, see the Dutch Caribbean Legal Portal.
The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy. The head of state is the monarch (king or queen), who must adhere to the Constitution. The Constitution lays down that the ministers, but not the monarch, are responsible for government policy. The monarch is therefore not accountable to the parliament.
The government of the Netherlands consists of the Queen and her ministers. The ministers in the government and the state secretaries form the Cabinet. The Cabinet governs the country and carries out policy. The Cabinet is regulated by the Parliament.
Government comprises over 1,600 organisations and bodies, including 11 ministries, 12 Provinces and 388 Municipalities. It also includes autonomous administrative authorities, such as police regions and chambers of commerce, the water authorities and public bodies for industry and the professions. At the same time, many organisations that we might assume form part of government are in private hands. They include health insurance funds, boards of private schools and benefit agencies such as the UWV (Employee Insurance Agency).
The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy, and parliament therefore has the last word. The Dutch Parliament is called 'the States General'. It consists of two chambers: the directly elected House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) and indirectly elected Senate (Eerste Kamer). Together they constitute the legislative assembly.
The House of Representatives is the more powerful of the two. This is where government coalitions are formed and collapse, and where ministers must come to defend their policies. No minister or government can survive a vote of no confidence in the House of Representatives.
General information about the Dutch Judiciary and the Supreme Court of the Netherlands can be found on the website Rechtspraak.nl.
The Dutch judicial system consists of the following organisations:
District Courts (Rechtbanken): The Netherlands is divided into eleven districts, each with its own court.
Courts of Appeal (Gerechtshoven): The eleven districts are divided into four areas of Court of Appeal jurisdiction: The Hague and Amsterdam in the west, Arnhem-Leeuwarden in the east and north and 's-Hertogenbosch in the south.
As the highest court in the fields of civil, criminal and tax law, the Supreme Court (Hoge Raad) is responsible for hearing appeals in cassation and for a number of specific tasks which are charged by law.
There are three special tribunals in the Netherlands that are competent in specific areas of administrative law:
Central Appeals Tribunal (Centrale Raad van Beroep) which is mainly active in legal areas pertaining to social security and the civil service.
Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (College van beroep voor het bedrijfsleven) also known as Administrative High Court for Trade and Industry, is a specialized court which rules on disputes in the area of social-economic administrative law.
Council of State Administrative Jurisdiction Division (Raad van State-Afdeling Bestuursrechtspraak) is the highest general administrative court in the Netherlands. It hears appeals lodged by members of the public or companies against decisions or orders given by municipal, provincial or central government. Disputes may also arise between two public authorities.
In the famous Costa-Enel case (6/64), the Court of Justice of the European Community has ruled that European law is an integral part of the national legal system of the EC member countries and takes precedence over national law. Therefore, one cannot fully ascertain the applicable law without researching the relevant European law. The Eur-Lex database contains, inter alia, all Community legislation in force.
As to the effect of general public international law in the Dutch legal order one has to look at articles 93 and 94 of the Constitution. These articles provide for the direct effect (self-execution) of provisions of treaties and of resolutions of international organisations if they are binding on all persons by virtue of their contents. When the Dutch judge rules that such a provision has direct effect, a citizen can invoke the provision in his case and the provision will then prevail over conflicting Dutch law. The question of direct effect is well explained by Brölmann and Vierdag in their contribution to The Integration of International and European Community Law into the National Legal Order. A Study of the Practice in Europe, edited by Eisemann, The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1996, pp. 433-459.
The most important form of legislation is the legislation made by the central government in cooperation with the parliament: wetgeving in formele zin (acts of parliament).
Lower forms of legislation are rules made by other agencies that belong to central government, such as algemene maatregel van bestuur (orders in council) and ministeriële regelingen (ministerial regulations); by the representative organs of provinces (these rules are called Verordeningen), water boards (these rules are called Keuren) and municipalities (these rules are called Verordeningen), by agencies or other public bodies.
Free Internet Services
Examples (in Dutch) of various forms of legislation can be found at Overheid.nl. Acts of parliament (wetten) and Orders in council (algemene maatregelen van bestuur) are officially published in the Staatsblad (Official Gazette) and ministerial regulations (ministeriele regelingen) in the Staatscourant (Government Gazette). Treaties, to which the Netherlands is a party, are officially published from 1951 in the Tractatenblad (Bulletin of Treaties).
The collected texts of legislation are also available in:
- The Civil Code of the Netherlands / transl. from the Dutch by Hans Warendorf, Richard Thomas and Ian Curry-Sumner, Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2013 (2nd ed), ISBN 9789041134127
- The Dutch Copyright Act, including the Dutch Copyright Contract Act /ed. by Visser, Schaap & Kreijger. Amsterdam: DeLex, 2015, ISBN 9789086920563
- Dutch Patents Act 2010. Amstelveen: DeLex, 2010, ISBN 978-90-8692-025-9
- The Dutch penal code / transl. [from the Dutch] by Louise Rayar and Stafford Wadsworth; in collab. with Mona Cheung... [et al.]; rev. by Hans Lensing; introd. by Grat van den Heuvel and Hans Lensing, Littleton, Colorado: Rothman, 1997, ISBN 0-8377-0050-7
- Integration at the border: the Dutch Act on integration abroad and international immigration law / Karin de Vries. Oxford: Hart, 2013 ISBN 9781849464109
English Translations (Internet)
- Constitution of the Kingdom of the Netherlands 2008
- Criminal Code of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
- Dutch Civil Code
- General Administrative Law Act
- Legislationline Netherlands (OSCE)
Free Internet Services
- Rechtspraak.nl (selected full-text judgments in Dutch)
The main Dutch law reports are Nederlandse Jurisprudentie (NJ), Administratiefrechtelijke Beslissingen (AB), Kort Geding (KG) and Rechtspraak van de Week (RvdW). These are both available in print format and online published by Kluwer.
English translations of Dutch case law are scarce. There are a few periodicals however, which publish English summaries of case law:
- Netherlands Yearbook of International Law ("Netherlands judicial decisions involving questions of public international law"). Most of these summaries are reproduced in the International Law Reports.
- Netherlands International Law Review ("Netherlands judicial decisions involving questions of private international law")
- Uniform Law Review ("International Transport Law Conventions: A Digest of Recent Decisions by Courts in the Netherlands", by R. Cleton)
- Electronic journal of comparative law 1997-2011, publishes articles relating to comparative private and public law, comparative legal aspects of information technology and the methodology of comparative law.
- Erasmus law review seeks to foster independent critical scholarship as relevant to the discipline of law
- Utrecht Law Review, is an open-access peer-reviewed journal to offer an international platform for cross-border legal research
- Family & Law is an online open access forum in the field of family law in Belgium and the Netherlands.
- Law and Method publishes articles about methodological issues concerning law as an academic discipline and its relation to other disciplines.
- Netherlands Administrative Law Library publishes articles in the field of administrative law both in Dutch and in English
- Netherlands Journal of Legal Philosophy is an international journal, devoted to the study of legal philosophy and jurisprudence
- Introduction to Dutch Law / ed. By J.M.J. Chorus. The Hague: Kluwer, 2016 (5th ed), ISBN 9789041166639Understanding Dutch law / by Sanne Taekema. The Hague: BJU, 2011, ISBN 9789089744760
- Netherlands Reports to the International Congress of Comparative Law:
- Dutch Civil Law information online in English on the principles and provisions of Dutch Civil Law, the Dutch legal order and the rules of private international law of the Netherlands.
- Century of Dutch copyright law: Auteurswet 1912-2012 / ed. By Bernt Hugenholtz. Amsterdam: DeLex, 2012, ISBN 9789086920389
- Intellectual property law in the Netherlands / by P.L. Reeskamp. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002, ISBN 904118136
- Litigation in the Netherlands: civil procedure, arbitration and administrative litigation / by Marieke van Hooijdonk and Peter Eijsvoogel. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2012 (2nd ed), ISBN 9789041141439
- The Annual Accounts in the Netherlands: a guide to Title 9 of the Netherlands Civil Code / by Peter Thomson, Fred van der Giessen en Dingeman Manschot. Deventer: Kluwer, 2012, ISBN 9789013106954
- Children and their parents / by Machteld Vonk. Antwerp: Intersentia, 2007, ISBN 9789050957328
- Family law legislation of the Netherlands: a translation including Book 1 of the Dutch Civil Code, procedural and transitional provisions and private international law legislation / by Ian Sumner and Hans Warendorf. Antwerp: Intersentia, 2003, ISBN 905953409
- Inheritance law legislation of the Netherlands: a translation of Book 4 of the Dutch Civil Code / by Ian Sumner and Hans Warendorf. Antwerp: Intersentia, 2005, ISBN 9050954448
Law of Obligations
- Contract Law in the Netherlands / by A.S. Hartkamp and M.M.M. Tillema. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2015 (2nd ed), ISBN 9789041161581
- The principles of European contract law and Dutch law: a commentary / by D. Busch et al. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002, ISBN 9041117490
Private International Law
- Book 10 civil code: on the Dutch conflicts of law / by M.H. ten Wolde e.a. Groningen: Hephaestus, 2011, ISBN 9789077096352
- Private International Law in the Netherlands / by R. van Rooij and M.V. Polak. Deventer: Kluwer, 1987 (ISBN 90-411-0084-9) with update of 1995 (ISBN 90-6544-286-3)
- Banking and securities regulation in the Netherlands / by Bas Jennen and Niels van de Vijver. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2010, ISBN 9789041128638
- Comparative and international perspectives on bankruptcy law reform in the Netherlands / ed. By R.D. Vriesendorp et.al. Center for Company Law, 2001, ISBN 9054541091
- Corporate law and practice of the Netherlands / ed. By S.R. Schuit. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2013 (3rd ed) ISBN 9789041128645
- Financial law in the Netherlands/ ed. by Marcel C.A. van den Nieuwenhuijzen. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2010. ISBN 9789041128577
- A guide to the NAI arbitration rules: including a commentary on Dutch arbitration law / ed. by Bommel van der Bend, Marnix Leijten, Marc Ynzonides. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2009, ISBN 9789041127341
- Netherlands insolvency law: the Netherlands Bankruptcy Act and the most important legal concepts / by P.J.M. Declercq. The Hague: TMC Asser press, 2002, ISBN 9067041440
- New Dutch insurance contract law / official text in Dutch, transl. in English, French and German; introd. commentaries by J.H. Wansink, J.G.C. Kamphuisen, W.M.A. Kalkman. Amstelveen: deLex, 2006, ISBN 9086920039
- Reform of Dutch private company law / by Maarten J. Kroeze et al. In: Private company law reform. The Hague: TMC Asser press, 2010, ISBN 9789067042512
- An introduction to Dutch tax law 2010 / ed. by Carl van Suchtelen. Amsterdam: Ernst & Young, 2010
- Competition law of the European Union and the Netherlands: an overview / by T.R. Ottervanger and S.J. van der Voorde. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2002, ISBN 9041118969
- Dutch telecommunications law / by Peter V. Eijsvoogel and Hendrik Jan de Ru. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2001, ISBN 9041114696
Constitutional and Administrative Law
- Constitutional law of the Netherlands: an introduction / by Constantijn Kortmann and Paul Bovend'Eert. Alphen aan den Rijn: Kluwer Law International, 2012 (2nd ed), ISBN 9789041140609 The Kingdom of the Netherlands / by Leonard F.M. Besselink; in: Constitutional law of the EU member states. Deventer: Kluwer, 2014, ISBN 9789013091762, pp. 1187-1241
- Nationality law of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in international perspective / by G.R. de Groot and C. Bollen (2004)
- The Netherlands Constitution 1848-1998: historical reflections / by J.W. Sap. Utrecht: Lemma, 2000 ISBN 9789051898729The Netherlands: fundamental structures of the constitution of the Netherlands by Leonard F.M. Besselink (2006)
- The Dutch criminal justice system: organization and operation / by Peter J.P. Tak. Nijmegen: Wolf Legal Publishers, 2008, ISBN9789058503428
- Netherlands' report for the International Association of Penal law on Ne bis in idem / by A. Klip and H. van der Wilt (2004)
Labor and Social Security Law
- Employment law and work councils of The Netherlands / by Ferdinand B.J. Grapperhaus and Leonard G. Verburg The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2009, ISBN 9789041128584
- Labour law in the Netherlands / by A. Jacobs. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 2015 (2nd ed), ISBN 9789041158932
- European and Dutch Water law / by H.F.M. van Rijswick and H.J.M. Havekes. Groningen: European Law Publishing, 2011, 9789089521071
In addition, both the Index to Legal Periodicals and the Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (available in paper edition and online database) contain many references to journal articles, dealing with Dutch legal issues.
- PORTILL: portal Internet Law Library (Juridische Internet Bibliotheek). This portal is part of the cooperation between Dutch universities. The aim of this collaboration is to create an internet law library for the academic legal domain, primarily focused on Dutch law and secondarily on European and international law
- Dutch Caribbean Legal Portal: news and general information about the legal system of the Dutch Caribbean, its institutions and its practitioners. This portal strives to be the complete database of legal news, contacts and documents for the Dutch Caribbean
- Juridisch-economisch lexicon = The legal and economic lexicon / Aart van den End. Deventer: Kluwer, 2010, ISBN 9789013079012
- Dutch legal terminology in English / by Tony Foster. Deventer, Kluwer, 2009. ISBN 9789013064179
- Nederlandse rechtsbegrippen vertaald: Frans, Engels, Duits (Dutch legal terms translated: French, English, German) / ed. by J.H.M. van Erp., 3d ed.'s-Gravenhage: T.M.C. Asser Press, 2006, 3d ed., ISBN 9789067041935
- Le Docte, Edgard, Dictionnaire de termes juridiques en quatre langues = Viertalig juridisch woordenboek = Legal dictionary in four languages = Rechtswörterbuch in vier Sprachen. Antwerpen: Intersentia, 2011, ISBN 9789050951265
The Leidraad voor juridische auteurs 2016 contains guidelines on how to cite Dutch legislation, case law, parliamentary documents and literature.
- Amsterdam Law School University of Amsterdam
- Faculty of Law Free University of Amsterdam
- Faculty of Law University Groningen
- Leiden Law School Leiden University
- Faculty of Law University of Maastricht
- Faculty of Law Radboud University Nijmegen
- Erasmus School of Law Erasmus University Rotterdam
- Tilburg Law School Tilburg University
- Utrecht School of Law Utrecht University
- Open University Heerlen
- Council for the Judiciary (Raad voor de rechtspraak)
- Netherlands Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten) is the public law professional body for all advocates in the Netherlands
- Legal Aid Board (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand)
- Royal Dutch Association of Civil-law Notaries (Koninklijke Notariële Beroepsorganisatie)
- Royal Professional Organization of Judicial Officers in The Netherlands (Koninklijke Beroepsorganisatie van Gerechtsdeurwaarders)