New President Common Court of Justice Van der Poel: “We have reached the limit with budget cuts”

POSTED: 08/19/13 11:43 AM

St. Maarten / WILLEMSTAD – The Common Court of Justice had reached the limits of what it is able to deliver with the current staff in terms of quality justice. With that message Judge Evert-Jan van der Poel announced his colors during is installation in Willemstad as the court’s president and the successor of the retiring mr. Lisbeth Hoefdraad.  On Friday, there is an extraordinary session of the Common Court in Philipsburg on the occasion of the installation of two resident judges – mr. Koos van de Ven and mr. Katja Mans. The event is also designed as a farewell party for Hoefdraad and for a first meeting with her successor Van der Poel.

Last Friday, Van der Poel made a stand for the court’s future. “Further budget cuts than the ones that have been proposed by this court will mean that we will go through a critical limit. We must not let things get that far.”

Van der Poel’s message was meant for several responsible politicians who often have to have difficult discussions with their finance ministers.

“It often seems obvious that there is quality justice, but that is not evident at all,” Van der Poel said.

The successor of Lisbeth Hoefdraad became the court’s 23rd president since its establishment 144 years ago in 1869. Next year the court will celebrate its 145th anniversary.

“Quality justice requires a lot and its social value should not be underestimated,” Van der Poel said. “Only when justice halts due to a lack of resources will the community experience the value of justice.”

With his installation as the Common Court’s President, mr. Van der Poel returns to familiar territory. It is 27 years ago that he walked the 21 steps of the town hall in Willemstad for the first time. “These were my first steps on the way to my work as a judge at the Common Court of Justice. I had no idea that I would remain linked to this court for many years and during different periods, let alone that I would stand one day in the ballroom of the Hilton to address you as its new president,”

Van der Poel immediately announced his colors with his statement about the limits to budget cuts versus the court’s expected output. “One may expect from us that we keep the cost price for handling cases as low as possible by working as efficiently as possible. The fact that the cost price has gone down during the past couple of years indicates that we are on the right path in this respect.”

Van der Poel said that it is a misconception to think that the Common Court and the courts in First Instance are expensive – and more expensive than absolutely necessary.

“Yes, it is true, the budgets have gone up over the past couple of years, but that is mainly due to the fact that the courts handle more cases and also more complex and elaborate cases. We also have to invest more in people and facilities to enable this court to keep guaranteeing quality justice.”

Van der Poel said that the courts will have to handle more than 45,000 cases next year. The number of judges has not increased. On the contrary, currently there are 34 judges, divided over the Common Court and the Courts in First Instance in Aruba, Curacao, St. Maarten and Bonaire. That number has remained unchanged for already a couple of years.

Fortunately, the courts have the option to fall back on substitute judges and they also have legal support. “Otherwise it would not be doable to handle such a large number of cases,” Van der Poel said.

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