Arguments should be weighed, not counted.

Nobody will deny that administrative bodies must be able to verify that citizens and businesses obey rules and regulations nor argue that government should act appropriately and strictly when these rules are violated. It is self-evident  that these checks themselves however must be conducted in a proper and lawful manner, and that is where the shoe pinches. For although the government obviously has no right to violate laws or international rules to enforce the rules – which after all would constitute a contradiction in terms – experience shows that many if not all governing bodies – to put it mildly – do not exactly comply with the monitoring rules and/or (inter) national law. Unfortunately more often than not the proper and legal manner in which the investigations should be conducted is inadequately regulated, if at all, as a result of which citizens and companies alike are kept in the dark about what the government can or cannot do.

Even when procedures are properly regulated and protect against illegal interference in the rights of those investigated, it remains very difficult to determine what ones rights and duties are. In many cases, the government thankfully takes advantage of  – or rather blatantly abuses – the lack of knowledge of citizen or entrepreneurs. This is even more reprehensible as one realizes that just as in criminal law, ones statements or documents are submitted the practically cannot be withdrawn. This is not only a problem if there is a suspicion of fraud, but also in ‘normal’ checks or review of applications.

Fortunately, the courts sometimes put their foot down and call the government off, but that does not always happen and even if the courts rule in the favor of the party concerned, it usually takes weeks, months and most often years while, more often than not, not all consequences of the governmental infringement of rights, can be undone. In fact in many cases, if the resulting damage partially or even completely reversible, the compensation for damages endured in administrative law are extremely limited. To make matters worse, damages claim actions lengthy and costly procedures. That is precisely why, when the government comes knocking, it is crucial to contact an attorney in time, preferably proactively. He can explain exactly what documents one needs to submit at the request, which requests may or may not ignored and what is the fastest way to undo an unfavorable decision by the government.

Of course it is also important to appeal to the correct appellant Court, of which there are three in the Netherlands. The Dutch Administrative High Court (CRvB) is the court of appeal for a part of the administrative disputes and adjudicates cases governed by the General Administrative Law Act (Algemene wet bestuursrecht) specifically in issues involving social security, social assistance and civil-servants law. This High Court is also the court of first and sole instance for enforcement disputes ensuing from victims of war and persecution legislation.  The Administrative High Court reviews the decision of the District Court appealed against. The key question in the proceedings is whether the decision of the administrative body concerned is compatible with the law and in accordance with the principles of good administration, in both formal and substantive terms. A judgment given by the Administrative High Court is in most cases final and only in very special cases it is possible to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court, this is not necessarily true for the other courts of appeal

The Administrative High Court is not the only supreme administrative jurisdiction in the Netherlands. The Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State in The Hague is the highest court in the cases concerning town and county planning, environment, general appeals and aliens appeals. In the area of socio-economic administrative law, as well as administrative punitive sanctions the appellant – and often highest – court is the Administrative Court for Trade and Industry.