In the Netherlands, interlocutory proceedings can be instituted if a party cannot afford to wait long for a court ruling on account of an urgent interest. As a rule, cases in such proceedings are dealt with faster and are more straightforward than in substantive proceedings (commercial cases or subdistrict court cases). Thomas van Vugt, procedural lawyer in the Netherlands, explains how interlocutory proceedings are conducted.
The court determines whether a case is sufficiently urgent to be dealt with in interlocutory proceedings. If the interlocutory proceedings cannot be conducted by a subdistrict court, the claimant is obliged to be represented by a lawyer. The respondent can always put up a defence in person.
The claimant is required to submit an application for interlocutory proceedings to the court, accompanied by the draft summons. The claimant must also ask for confirmation of a date for which the oral hearing is scheduled. That hearing usually takes place with 6 weeks or at an earlier date if deemed justified in view of the urgency of the interest at stake. The judge in such cases is referred to as the judge in interlocutory proceedings.
When the date of the hearing has been established, the respondent can be summoned to appear in court. The defendant is under no obligation to submit any written defence prior to the hearing, nor is he or she obliged to seek assistance from a lawyer at the hearing.
The lawyers of the parties involved are allowed to make oral pleas during the hearing. Due to the urgent and straightforward nature of the proceedings, no time is allowed for witnesses to be heard or experts to provide an opinion.
Based on the summons, other written documents and what has been put forward during the hearing, the judge pronounces judgment. Such a judgment is always provisional in nature: it is not final, seeing that it is based on a brief, simple procedure. As a rule, judgment is given within a period of two weeks, or sooner in very urgent cases. Sometimes a so-called head-tail judgment (kop-staartvonnis) is given, in which the court pronounces judgment during or shortly after the hearing. The grounds of the judgment are then laid down in writing and sent at a later date.
The parties can subsequently opt to institute substantive proceedings. The case is then examined in detail, followed by a final judgment. The parties are under no obligation to obtain a final judgment in substantive proceedings. In practice, they often leave the case at the interlocutory proceedings and accept the judgment that was given. The parties can also opt for a summary appeal: they can lodge an appeal within a period of 4 weeks after the provisional order was issued.