Joint Court puts focus on quality in its annual report

Quality is the theme of the Joint Court of Justice’s 2014 annual report, writes The Daily Herald.

In the report, which was presented to the media in Curaçao on Wednesday, the Court also provided information on the number of court cases handled in the Dutch Caribbean. The Joint Court of Justice of Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten and of Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba asserted that it wanted to deliver justice of good quality and in a timely fashion in the four Kingdom countries. However, the Joint Court, which is presided over by President Evert Jan van der Poel, pointed out that its financial means were limited, whereas the required investments were increasing. The Joint Court said it had managed to reduce its operational losses by “freezing” vacancies and by reducing cost by approximately one million guilders. This enabled the Joint Court to close off the past year with a small positive financial result of NAf. 195,000, despite late payments of financial contributions and cost-cutting measures by the kingdom countries.

The Courts of St. Maarten and of Bonaire, Statia and Saba had both exceeded their budgets. The Courthouse in St. Maarten, which also handles court cases in Statia and Saba, exceeded its 2014 budget by NAf. 117,000. The Joint Court said investments had been made last year to improve quality; for instance, in the areas of education, such as legal courses and courses in customer care, and investments in information and communications technology (ICT). It was further noted that staff members had become more involved in the Court organisation through the introduction of a staff council. Elections for the council were held in August 2014, in which Joyseline Daniel was elected St. Maarten’s representative and Geritza Fermi for Bonaire, Statia and Saba.

As to the number of court cases, it was stated that the number of minor cases, in particular cases concerning civil liens, civil cases handled in the absence of a defendant and criminal cases dealing with offences had decreased considerably. However, it was noted that the workload for the Court had not decreased, due to an increase of severe and complex cases. The number of court cases on the merits and criminal cases increased, including a number of “mega-cases.” The number of tax cases also increased and is expected to increase even further with the introduction of new fiscal legislation in Curaçao and in St. Maarten.

The Court of St. Maarten dealt with 898 civil cases in 2014, compared with 1,107 cases in 2013. The number of administrative cases increased from 245 in 2013 to 311 last year. The Court dealt with 2,334 criminal cases in 2014 compared to 3,417 in 2013.

The Joint Court stated that progress had been made in giving the Court a more Caribbean face. New local jurists are being trained and those who have finished their training have been nominated for appointments as judges. St. Maarten welcomed Aruba-born Judge Mauritsz de Kort as one of these Caribbean faces as per January 1, 2015.

The Joint Court said it had reinforced its external communication last year with improved information and a more proactive press policy. It also introduced guidelines for the media and streamlined its operations with partners in the administration of justice, such as lawyers and the Prosecutors’ Offices. Housing also has improved, the Joint Court stated, with the opening of a new courthouse in Aruba. In St. Maarten, the building of the former Parliament of the Netherlands Antilles has been made available to Courthouse staff. Investigating judges in Curaçao obtained separate and secured offices.

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