Court hearings are no battlefield

Court hearings are no battlefield 21 August 2011

Parties and lawyers at court hearings are reasonably satisfied with the procedural justice they get. This is what our researchers found when interviewing parties in day to day civil court cases in two Dutch district courts.

Participants do not see courtroom as a battlefield, but rather as a place where a problem has to be solved, They expect the judge to coordinate this. Even from their opponents, participants want a positive attitude, respect, willingness to settle and submitting evidence in time. They see unnecessary accusations and qualifications as disturbances.

32% of the hearings resulted in a settlement, which is not as much as the researchers expected. Some respondents report that they felt pressured by the judge.

Interviews were also held with judges. They indicate that judges are often dissatisfied with the documents submitted to them. They tend to be irritated if a high number of ancillary issues and (weak) legal points are being brought up. New issues coming in late are another source of dissatisfaction.

The project results also suggest that hearings will be experienced as more fair and more effective if courts make clear what participants can expect (informational justice). Guidelines or Q and A forms may help parties and lawyers to submit the most useful information in an organized way.

See project Effective and Fair Court Hearings.


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