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Inaugural lecture by Prof. Rinus Otte: Organization of the judicial system would benefit from more autonomy and accountability

18 November 2010

The Dutch criminal justice system is going through a difficult patch. In his inaugural lecture on Tuesday 23 November  Professor Rinus Otte, professor of the Organization of Law at the University of Groningen and vice-president of the Arnhem Court of Appeal, will describe how the organization of the criminal justice system is grinding to a halt. He will outline a culture which in his view has created too many bureaucratic criminal court judges. Prof. Otte will suggest how the organization of the criminal justice system can be improved while at the same time strengthening the position of criminal court judges.

‘The culture in the courtrooms conflicts with that at the administrative and management levels,’ explains Prof. Otte. This is often perceived as a gulf between judges and their managers. Some judges complain about the pressure of work and the lack of consultation and involvement in the organization of their criminal proceedings.

Reasons for the stagnation

Prof. Otte finds an explanation for the current state of affairs in juridical and sociological factors. In his view, contrary to the intentions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, criminal proceedings are nowadays organized for the judge and no longer by the judge. As a result, the relationship between the judge and the management is undermined, as is the judge’s duty of responsibility for a criminal case.


Partly because of the many layers in large-scale judicial organizations, judges have started to feel more like a link in the chain rather than being at the centre of the judicial organization. On the basis of this perception the management has gained too much influence, while the attitude of professionals within the judicial system has become less constructive, Prof. Otte believes. ‘And that is not beneficial for the stability of the courts.’

Restoring the balance

In his lecture Prof. Otte will set out a framework for accountability within which the criminal court judge again occupies a more traditional place in the judicial organization in exchange for achieving management goals and providing accountability with regard to working methods. Prof. Otte will argue in favour of increasing the professional autonomy of criminal court judges, a more arm’s-length style of management, and court judges accepting responsibility for achieving certain productivity goals, for example. The restructuring of the organization of the criminal justice system that he advocates will increase judges’ standing in the courts and lead to a more affordable system of criminal justice.

In a broader context the lecture can be seen as a study of the rifts in the public domain and about restoring the relationship between managers and professionals, under the motto of: give the professional what belongs to the professional and the manager what belongs to the manager.

Professor Otte is vice-president of the Arnhem Court of Appeal and professor of the Organization of Law at the University of Groningen. Prior to that he was a manager of a criminal justice sector, professor in another field of law, chairman of various judicial committees and a senior adviser at the Dutch Ministry of Justice.

The lecture will be published in book form by Boom legal in The Hague and is different from another book that will be published a few days before the lecture. The author has written a comprehensive non-academic work on the same theme, which will be published by Boom Amsterdam on 19 November 2010 with the title: De nieuwe kleren van de rechter. Achter de schermen van de rechtspraak. [The Judge’s New Clothes. Behind the scenes of the criminal justice system.]

Press information

Further information: Prof. M. Otte, tel: 050-363 5630 (RUG) or 026-3592247 (Arnhem Court of Appeal), e-mail: m.otte 

Lecture by M. Otte: 23 November 2010 at 4.15 pm
Title: The organization and accountability of criminal court judges. Some thoughts on the organization of criminal proceedings.

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.59 a.m.
View this page in: Nederlands

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