Civil proceedings (also called ‘proceedings on the merits’ or ‘substantive proceedings’) may take months, sometimes even years, before judgment is given. Some matters, however, require short-term measures. For example, if a work strike is announced and the company wants to ban this strike, if a ban on publication of certain pictures is sought or if payment of a money claim is demanded and there are reasons to assume that this claim cannot be paid any more over the course of time. For such urgent and not too complex matters there are preliminary relief proceedings. Preliminary relief proceedings are short proceedings seeking an immediate provisional judgment in a civil dispute.
How are preliminary relief proceedings instituted?
Preliminary relief proceedings are initiated with a writ of summons. In this writ of summons the claim of the claimant is stated. The writ of summons must be prepared by a lawyer, as in ordinary civil proceedings. Then the writ of summons is submitted to the court in draft form (contrary to in ordinary civil proceedings the writ of summons is not served on the defendant by a bailiff). The judge in preliminary relief proceedings (also called interim relief judge) will determine the time at which the defendant has to appear in court. This is usually within one to two weeks, in very urgent cases the date can be earlier. The defendant will be called to appear before the court on a certain date and to put up his defence. Contrary to in proceedings on the merits (with the exception of proceedings before the sub-district sector), the defendant is not obliged to engage a lawyer. Because of the short course of the proceedings the defendant may appear in person in court and conduct his own defence.
Oral preliminary relief proceedings
During the oral preliminary relief proceedings both parties will be given the opportunity to present their case. Just as in ordinary civil proceedings the court will ask questions and encourage the parties to settle matters between themselves. At the end of the hearing the court will determine the date of the judgment. Judgment is usually given one to two weeks after the hearing. If necessary, however, the court can also give judgment on the same day.
The judgment and possibilities of appeal
Because of the short course of the proceedings the court has little time to look in-depth at all aspects of the case. That is why the judgment in preliminary relief proceedings only provides provisional relief. In other words, the judgment is not final yet. The judgment in preliminary relief proceedings is based on the preliminary opinion of the court of what is correct from a legal point of view. After the preliminary relief proceedings both parties can initiate proceedings on the merits. In proceedings on the merits the court may review the judgment in preliminary relief proceedings. However, in many cases the parties decide not to initiate proceedings on the merits after they have heard the judgment in preliminary relief proceedings. In addition to initiating proceedings on the merits, the parties can also appeal against the judgment in preliminary relief proceedings. These appeal proceedings also have a short course, this is also called a summary appeal.