The European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice

A national court user satisfaction survey held in the Dutch courts.

In the Netherlands there is a history of ten years of court user satisfaction surveys. In 2001 the courts started to conduct these surveys and in 2011 almost all courts executed this at least two times. In 2009 the assembly of court presidents chose one national survey for all the (19) district courts and the (5) courts of appeal, held simultaneously, under the condition of a minimal work load for the courts.

In 2010 a project group presented a plan in the assembly of court presidents. The plan enhanced a description of the products that would be delivered. Among those products were an individual report for each court and a general report including all the courts. A major advantage of the national survey is the ability of benchmarking: for example division civil-trade from court x with all divisions civil-trade in The Netherlands. Instead of a local survey which compares the different divisions within a court.

The project group published a tender on internet for the execution of the survey. The tender dealt with specific criteria for the reports and the methodology. The demands included the use of digital questionnaires for professionals that would participate and live interviews of litigants after their court session.

In preparation of the actual survey, the project group made two arrangements. They developed the questionnaire and approached general organisations for lawyers, public prosecutors and representatives of governmental bodies to hand in files with emails from the professionals (for sending the digital questionnaire).

As a base for the questionnaire mostly previous questions were used, making it possible to compare data with previous surveys. Questions which delivered less response or from which the answered hardly differed from related questions were deleted. The new questionnaire is ordered along five themes: performance of organisation, reception in the courts, functioning of judges, general satisfaction and background questions. All questions can be answered on a five point scale, except for one open question (What could be improved?). One new question was added: satisfaction on digital accessibility.

The company which won the tender produced brochures for the courts, for the citizens in the courts and for the organisations which participated. This information was distributed early 2011. Subsequently the interviewers visited the courts to introduce themselves. The interviews were held between February and May. In this period the professionals received an email with the questionnaire. Some time after this they received a reminder. At the end of the research investigation period the company started drafting the reports. In the general report names of courts are mentioned, but only when there’s a significant difference to the average satisfaction on a certain aspect.

The reports show high satisfaction with the functioning of the judges, but improvement is deemed necessary in the management of timeframes. The general report of all the courts is published at the end of September. In October the assembly of presidents will discuss the results and agree on initiatives for improvement. The presidents will also discuss if and when another national user satisfaction survey will be held.
Link to the general results

Ezra van Duuren,
Quality program secretary, the Dutch Council for the Judiciary, secretary of the survey project group &
Yinka Tempelman
Quality program leader, the Dutch Council for the Judiciary, member of the CEPEJ-GT-QUAL.
22 September 2011