This law, published on 10 December 2013 in the Belgian Official Gazette, is officially named the
“Law on the reform of the territorial jurisdiction and on the modification of the Judicial Code
with regard to a higher mobility of the members of the judicial order”, and forms a fundamental
change in the judicial landscape.
The reform mainly relies on the limitation of the number of the judicial court districts (increase in scale) and the improvement of the mobility of the magistrates and the judicial staff.
From now on there will be only 12 judicial court districts in stead of 27.
The new court districts will coincide with the territorial borders of the provinces and group the old judicial court districts as follows: Antwerp (Antwerp, Limburg and Mechelen), Brussels, Leuven, Walloon Brabant (Nivelles), East Flanders (Gent, Dendermonde and Oudenaarde), West Flanders (Bruges, Kortrijk, Ieper and Veurne), Eupen, Liège (Liège, Verviers and Huy), Luxembourg (Marche, Neufchâteau and Arlon), Namur (Namur and Dinant) and Hainaut (Mons, Tournai and Charleroi).
The courts of Brussels will be “deduplicated” in the Dutch and French courts (for example “the
Dutch Court of Commerce of Brussels”).
In the judicial court district of Hainaut, two public prosecutor’s offices will be established.
The seat of the courts of first instance will be established in the capital of the province.
The law leaves the current seats unchanged, but instructs henceforth that the magistrates will be appointed in the new courts. The new courts will have new names in accordance with the judicial court district to which they belong. The names of the employment court of appeals, employment courts and courts of commerce will depend on the territorial jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal in which they are located.
The mobility of the magistrates will be substantially increased through the territorial expansion. Judges will be easily set in to other courts if necessary, what will improve the judicial arrears with which justice is confronted at this moment.
The working scope for notaries public and bailiffs, which depends on the judicial court districts, will be significantly enlarged.
Each court will have to draft special rules and regulations and rules and regulations regarding
the division of cases.
The latter determines the departments and venues and categories of cases, which belong to the jurisdiction of a department as well.
The special rules and regulations will be an instrument of internal organization, which fixes rules regarding the daily operation of the court. These rules and regulations are drawn up by the authorized chief constable within three months as from his appointment.
As the result of the reform, the number of magistrates will be reduced. The magistrates who are
appointed in a court district (court or public prosecutor’s office), will subsidiary be appointed
in all other courts (public prosecutor’s offices) of first instance of the jurisdiction of the
Court of Appeal.
The justice of peace and the police courts will be responsible for their own management.
In every judicial court district there will be one president – who will act as chief constable – and a vice-president of judges of peace and judges in the police court appointed. The presidency will be alternated by a judge of peace and a judge in the police court. The judges, who are already appointed, will be appointed in other districts as well.
From now on the courts of commerce and the employment courts will be organized in the
jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal (for example “the employment court of Liège, department
Arlon”). Although the court districts of Brussels, Leuven and Walloon Brabant (Nivelles) are
separate districts, they remain to exist under the jurisdiction of the Court of Appeal of Brussels
and keep their original names seeing that these were not merged with old court districts.
With the Law of 21 March 2014 regarding the modification of the earlier mentioned Law on
judicial reform of 1 December 2013, which was published in the Belgian Official Gazette on 24 March
2014, the legislator has implemented a number of transitional rules to make sure the transition to
the 12 court districts and the appointment of the chief constables could be carried out smoothly.
The appointment of the chief constables could not be completed before the entering into force of the law on 1 April 2014.
The reform mainly relies on the limitation of the number of the judicial court districts and the improvement of the mobility of the magistrates and the judicial staff
Despite the big dissatisfaction of the Court of Cassation, who on behalf of magistrates
requested the postponement of the judicial reform until the new judicial year – due to the issues
regarding the appointment of chief constables – the law has entered into force on 1 April 2014.
Transitional rules are required for the organization of the magistrates until the appointment of the chiefs constables is definitively completed.
Therefore the special rules and regulations will not be drawn up immediately (in expectation of the appointment of chief constables) and present rules and regulations will be temporally maintained. Transitional regulations regarding the (deputy) mandates are provided as well.
The presidents of the court of first instance will exercise the powers of the president of the judges of peace and the judges in the police court until the president is appointed definitively.
The Law of 21 March 2014 contains also regulations regarding the impending elections of 25 May 2014 and clarifies which function a magistrate will have during the elections.
The judicial reform will have its full effect as from the chief constables (the presidents of the judges of peace and judges in the police court) will be appointed. Given the quick speed with which the reform has been enforced, reparation-regulations will be required at the same speed.