COVID-19: NCC is open for business, but restrictions apply

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Amsterdam, 25 March 2020

[Updated 26 May 2020]

The Dutch Government has ordered measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. As a result, access to the courthouses, including the Palace of Justice where the NCC District Court and NCC Court of Appeal are located, was restricted from March through mid-May. However, effective 1 June 2020, the NCC courthouse will be accessible to lawyers and parties if the court orders a courtroom hearing. However, some restrictions will still apply, such as a maximum number of attendees. And in most cases members of the public will not be allowed to enter the courthouse. In the courthouse special precautions have been taken to minimise COVID-19 risks.

General guidance

To limit the impact of the current circumstances, the following general guidance will apply until further notice, subject to the court's directions on a case-by-case basis:

  • As of 1 June 2020, hearings will generally be held in the courthouse, unless the judge decides otherwise;
  • Wherever possible and appropriate, hearings may be held electronically, using conference call or videoconferencing equipment;
  • It is possible, as always, to initiate a new case in eNCC (the electronic portal), and to submit documents and exhibits;
  • NCC staff is available to provide further guidance and answer any questions you may have. 

Videoconference hearings

Ordinary courtroom rules apply, but there are some particular rules:

  • All participants switch off their microphones when not speaking.
  • All mobile phones are on silent mode during the hearing; if lawyers wish to confer with co-counsel or a client, they can do so by instant messaging, or by requesting a short break.
  • Anyone from the public wishing to attend should contact the NCC registry to obtain a login link. All participants must be on screen (webcam on). The microphone is switched off.
  • Anyone not in compliance with the rules is removed from the videoconference.

See our manual (pdf, 51.8 KB) instructions on how to log in to the hearing (pdf, 50.6 KB).

Videconference instructions

Prior to any videoconference hearing the parties will receive specific instructions along the lines of our format below: 

  1. Approximately 60/30 minutes before the hearing the clerk will perform a test. Please log into the session and switch on video and audio. See our manual (pdf, 51.8 KB).
  2. If the videoconference does not work smoothly, the hearing may be by conference call.
  3. Please stay connected (with audio and video off) or access the Skype session again 10 minutes before the hearing, so we can start on time.
  4. If the lawyers wish to submit written notes for the case file, the notes should be uploaded to eNCC at least 2/24/48 hours before the hearing. The notes will then be a part of the case file. The lawyers are requested to limit their initial remarks (“pleadings”) during the Skype session to a summary of their notes.
  5. The deadline for submitting exhibits is [@@]
  6. The judge, clerk and lawyers will not wear a robe, as the hearing is held outside a courthouse.
  7. All participants are required to switch on video and keep audio muted if not speaking.
  8. Mobile phones are allowed, but must be in silent mode. Private consultation with clients or opposing counsel can be done by instant messaging or by asking the court for a short break. Please do not disconnect, but only switch off video and audio. If you need more time, send a chat message in the Skype session.
  9. Avoid interrupting the judge or opposing counsel. To raise an urgent point, send a chat message in the Skype session.
  10. It is not allowed to make a screenshot, photo or any audio or video recording of the hearing.
  11. There may be members of the public joining the videoconference session. They will be requested to switch on their webcam. Non-compliance with this rule, or any further instructions, will result in removal from the session.