The Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Dutch: Hoge Raad der Nederlanden, pronounced [ˈɦoːɣə raːdɛr ˈneːdərlɑndə(n)]),[2] officially the High Council of the Netherlands, is the final court of appeal in civil, criminal and tax cases in the Netherlands, including Curaçao, Sint Maarten and Aruba.[3] The Court was established on 1 October 1838 and is located in The Hague.[4]

The Supreme Court rules civil and criminal matters. In certain administrative cases it has final jurisdiction as well, while in other cases this jurisdiction rests with the adjudicative division of the Council of State (Raad van State), the Central Appeals Tribunal (Centrale Raad van Beroep), the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (College van Beroep van het bedrijfsleven) as well as judicial institutions in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The Court is a court of cassation, which means that it has the competence to quash or affirm rulings of lower courts, but no competence to re-examine or question the facts. It only considers whether the lower courts applied the law correctly and the rulings have sufficient reasoning.[5] In so doing it establishes case law. According to Article 120 of the Constitution, courts may not rule on the constitutionality of laws passed by the States General and treaties. With the exception of the Constitutional Court of Sint Maarten courts (which rules on constitutionality with regards to the Sint Maarten constitution only) have thus no competence for judicial review with respect to the Constitution.[6][7]

The Supreme Court currently consists of 36 judges: a president, six vice presidents, twenty-five justices (raadsheren, literally "Lords of the Council") and four justices extraordinary (buitengewone dienst).[8] All judges are appointed for life, until they retire at their own request or mandatorily at the age of 70.[9]


The Huis Huguetan on Lange Voorhout, Supreme Court seat from 1988 to 2016

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 Great Council of Mechelen and its successor the Hoge Raad van Holland en Zeeland, which both served as high appellate courts.[4]

Second World War

Lodewijk Ernst Visser, President of the Dutch Supreme Court from 1939-1941

During the German occupation, the Supreme Court kept functioning. In November 1940 the German occupiers forced its President, Lodewijk Ernst 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 its 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.[10] This was demonstrated in a so-called "Test sentence", (Supreme Court, 12 January 1942, NJ 1942/271), in which the Supreme Court ruled that a Dutch judge could not 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, argued in his defense 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 German government, 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 not it was not allowed to challenge "political" measures. "Political" in this case was what the political authorities considered to be political. In Italy the Court of Appeal recognized the free authority of Mussolini and the judge's lack of authority to control it.[11] 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."[12]:85 The Supreme Court defended this sentence in retrospect with the conjecture that the Germans would never accept their decrees being contested and might have intervened in a negative way with the legal establishment, resulting in a further diminishing of citizens' legal protection.[10]

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.[10]


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.


Justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by royal decree, chosen from a list of three, advised by the House of Representatives on the advice of the Court itself. The justices are, like every other judge in the Netherlands, appointed for life, until they retire at their own will or after reaching the age of 70. Upon reaching the age of 60, a justice may change status to extraordinary, with the effect that the justice 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 ombudsman chamber. The members of the fourth division are chosen ad hoc, but will include the President of the Court.[9]

Current Justices

As of January 2016, the first three chambers are composed as follows:[9]

Name Chamber Invested Born
Numann, ErnstErnst Numann (Vice President) Civil 2000 1950
Bakels, FlorisFloris Bakels (Vice President) Civil 2003 1949
van Buchem-Spapens, AnnemarieAnnemarie van Buchem-Spapens Civil 1 September 1998 1951
Streefkerk, KeesKees Streefkerk Civil 1 October 2004 1955
Heisterkamp, ToonToon Heisterkamp Civil 1 February 2007 1953
Snijders, GerbrantGerbrant Snijders Civil 1 June 2011 1961
de Groot, DinekeDineke de Groot Civil 1 February 2012 1965
Polak, MartijnMartijn Polak Civil 1 September 2012 1961
van den Brink, VincentVincent van den Brink Civil 1 October 2012 1966
Tanja-Van den Broek, TanjaTanja Tanja-Van den Broek Civil 1 January 2014 1964
van Schendel, WillemWillem van Schendel (Vice President) Criminal 2001 1950
van Dorst, LeoLeo van Dorst (Vice President) Criminal 1999 1949
de Savornin Lohman, BonBon de Savornin Lohman Criminal 1 April 2000 1947
de Hullu, JaapJaap de Hullu Criminal 1 September 2003 1958
Splinter-Van Kan, TinekeTineke Splinter-Van Kan Criminal 24 January 2005 1947
Buruma, YboYbo Buruma Criminal 1 September 2011 1955
van de Griend, ElishewaElishewa van de Griend Criminal 1 February 2014 1963
van Strien, NastjaNastja van Strien Criminal 1 June 2015 1961
Faase, EvelineEveline Faase Criminal 1 September 2015 1958
Borgers, MatthiasMatthias Borgers Criminal 1 January 2016 1973
Balkema, JeppeJeppe Balkema[Note 1] Criminal 1998 1946
Ilsink, JanJan Ilsink[Note 1] Criminal 2003 1946
Feteris, MaartenMaarten Feteris (President) Tax 2008 1960
Overgaauw, JacquesJacques Overgaauw (Vice President) Tax 2008 1951
Koopman, RobertRobert Koopman (Vice President) Tax 1 February 2010 1962
van Vliet, DickDick van Vliet Tax 1997 1946
Bavinck, BernardBernard Bavinck Tax 1 January 2000 1946
Punt, LiesbethLiesbeth Punt Tax 24 January 2005 1962
Schaap, CeesCees Schaap Tax 1 September 2006 1947
van Loon, PietPiet van Loon Tax 1 February 2009 1954
Fierstra, MarcMarc Fierstra Tax 1 June 2009 1959
Groeneveld, TheoTheo Groeneveld Tax 1 February 2012 1948
Wortel, JulesJules Wortel Tax 1 February 2012 1954
van Kalmthout, LoekLoek van Kalmthout Tax 1 June 2013 1955
van Hilten, MarikenMariken van Hilten Tax 1 September 2015 1964
Lourens, PeterPeter Lourens[Note 1] Tax 1999 1946
van den Berge, JaapJaap van den Berge[Note 1] Tax 2001 1948
  1. ^ a b c d Supernumerary justice.

See also


  1. ^ "mr. M.W.C. (Maarten) Feteris, president Hoge Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). Hoge Raad der Nederlanden. Retrieved 16 September 2015. 
  2. ^ In isolation, Raad and der are pronounced, respectively, [raːt] and [dɛr].
  3. ^ "Nederlandse Antillen en Aruba". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. 27 July 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Geschiedenis van de Hoge Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. 18 September 2004. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  5. ^ "Supreme Court". Rechtspraak.nl. De Rechtspraak. 10 August 2009. Retrieved 2 December 2009. 
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ For a discussion of judicial review in the Netherlands see J. Uzman, T. Barkhuysen, and M.L. van Emmerik, "The Dutch Supreme Court: A Reluctant Positive Legislator?" (PDF). Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  8. ^ "The World Factbook". cia.gov. 
  9. ^ a b c "Raad". Rechtspraak.nl (in Dutch). De Rechtspraak. Retrieved 22 January 2016. 
  10. ^ a b c Corjo Jansen en Derk Venema, "The Supreme Court and the Second World War" (in Dutch), Boom, Amsterdam, 2011.
  11. ^ Derk Venema, "Judges in war time: The Dutch judiciary's confrontation with national socialism and the occupation" (in Dutch), Boom, Amsterdam, 2007.
  12. ^ 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).

External links