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Limiting the size of a procedural document

Quite recently I sent a draft of the litigation document I prepared to a client. My client's response was pleasant: "The relevant facts are on paper and you have carefully explained everything and you have written down in clear terms what is wrong with the opposing party's story. I read my story as I told it to you back into the documents, which is nice."


The draft litigation document counted 48 pages. In itself, this was also not very strange. After all, the plaintiff's statement of grievances had a size of (no less than) 76 pages excluding exhibits, and the plaintiff's (admittedly repetitive) contentions still had to be carefully disputed, especially since, in my opinion, this had not been done adequately in the court of first instance (I took over the file from another firm). So a size of 48 pages was not so bad.


As of next April 1, it will in principle no longer be possible to file a procedural document of this size with the court. As of April 1, lawyers will run into a limit. It should be noted that this limitation (for now) only applies to procedural documents in appeal. From then on, procedural documents in civil summons cases and petition proceedings will in principle not exceed 15 or 25 pages (excluding motions). Several important procedural document may not exceed 25 pages. After all, appeal proceedings are governed by the two-conclusion rule: in principle, all contentions must be put forward in the statement of objections and statement of reply (the first to documents to file for appeal). Other documents of record should be only 15 pages.


The limits would be introduced to put an end to the established trend of ever thicker case files. However, the real reason seems to be different, namely understaffing at courts of appeal. In November 2012, the Arnhem District Court already experimented with such a limit. The criticism was not mild. And yet a limit is now being introduced at all courts. Although permission can be asked in advance if someone needs more pages, sometimes it is difficult to estimate in advance. It must also then involve great factual or legal complexity. If such permission, to be judged by the roll judge, is not given in advance, a maximum of 25 pages applies.


I wonder whether this limitation has been adequately thought through. It has been indicated many times that there are serious risks associated with such a limitation. One wonders whether it is sufficiently guaranteed that a party can present his case in full to the court on the basis of Article 6 ECHR. It is also indicated that a procedural document has a function for the party concerned. If it cannot tell the whole story, the losing party might feel that the loss is due to that. In my example, I could not have told the whole story in just 25 pages. Whereas perhaps not every fact was legally relevant, mentioning those facts was highly relevant to (my client's) feelings. A balance has to be found.


Sometimes litigation documents are also too long and a lawyer could have worded it more concisely and succinctly. That's true. So too in my case. But that does not automatically mean that that case could have been presented in 25 pages.


The key question is whether the trend of ever-thicker case files justifies a general rule like this. Should several risks then be taken for granted? I doubt it does. Time will tell. In any case, the criticism of this rule to be introduced is, once again, not very strong.


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