The Ministry of Security and Justice and the Council for the Judiciary have jointly set up a programme with the aim of digitizing, improving and also simplifying civil and administrative procedures (KEI).
In the context of KEI, four legislative proposals have been prepared to:
- amend the Code of Civil Procedure and the General Administrative Law Act relating to simplification and digitization of procedural law (wijziging van het Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering en de Algemene wet bestuursrecht in verband met vereenvoudiging en digitalisering van het procesrecht, Kamerstukken II 2014/15, 34 059);
- amend the Code of Civil Procedure relating to simplification and digitization of procedural appeal and cassation (wijziging van het Wetboek van Burgerlijke Rechtsvordering in verband met vereenvoudiging en digitalisering van het procesrecht in hoger beroep en cassatie, Kamerstukken II 2014/15, 34 138);
- implement procedural simplification and digitization (invoeringswet vereenvoudiging en digitalisering procesrecht, Kamerstukken II, 2014/15, 34 212);
- adjust laws in connection with the implementation of procedural simplification and digitization and expansion of preliminary questions (invoeringsrijkswet vereenvoudiging en digitalisering procesrecht en uitbreiding prejudiciële vragen, Kamerstukken II, 2014/15, 34 237).
In broad terms, the KEI-bills introduce a new digital basic procedure that will replace both the existing summons proceedings and the application proceedings and which can be extended to include other procedural actions if necessary. The separate summons and applications will be merged into one in order to create a new single application, the so-called process introduction. Professional parties will be obliged to litigate using the digital system. The process introduction, contrary to the original summons, no longer requires the involvement of a bailiff (possibility of informal service).
The KEI-bills also introduce additional legal deadlines for the performance of specific procedural actions for both parties and the court, and the existing deadlines will be tightened. For example, the defendant has four weeks in district court cases and six weeks in other cases (excluding summary proceedings) to lodge a defence, starting from the moment the defendant acknowledges the process introduction.
Furthermore, the judge will be able to deliver more control and customization during a case.
KEI-I and KEI-II were adopted by the House of Representatives on 26 May 2015 (KEI-I) and on 11 June 2015 (KEI-II) respectively. The bills will be considered together in the Senate. KEI-III and KEI-IV were submitted to the House of Representatives on 27 May 2015 (KEI-III) and on 24 June 2015 (KEI IV) respectively.
The obligation to litigate in digital form will not be introduced for each court at once. There will be a phased roll-out. For the roll-out plan see the schedule introduction digital litigation on the website of the Dutch Bar Association. Since it is now clear that the original date (1 January 2016) for entry into force of the KEI-bills will not be achieved, the planning of the roll-out will be delayed.
According to an overview of the list of urgent bills, it appears that 1 May 2016 is the desired start date for KEI-I, KEI-II and KEI-III to come into effect. With respect to professionals like lawyers and the Public Prosecutor an adjustment period of half a year has been agreed to ensure they can get used to the changes. Although there is broad support for the bills in the Senate, there are critical questions about the speed and manner of introduction. The Dutch Bar Association and the Royal Professional Association of bailiffs are critical about the lack of system to system links and the short time given to software companies in the industry to develop and implement these links. It therefore seems unlikely that the implementation of KEI will take place earlier than 1 July 2016.
Following the implementation of KEI, law firms have two choices in terms of digital communications with the courts . They can obtain access to the digital file through a free web portal provided by the Judiciary. In addition, they can choose the system2system terminal which offers a direct link between the systems of the Judiciary and law firms; this option requires an upfront investment, but is not mandatory.
For the development of the system2system terminal the Judicary will cooperate with Silex; a consortium of law firms, including Stibbe, to ensure they are prepared for KEI.
See also the Dutch post Modernisering en Digitalisering van het (bestuurs)procesrecht: wie draait op voor ‘bugs’? on Stibbeblog.nl