The second Altink Affair started on the 30th of January 2003, when Johan Meijering sued Cor Van L. for damages suffered from selling forged works. In the period between 1999 and 2002, several transactions had taken place between Van L. and Meijering; numerous paintings were sold, traded, or used as substitute. At the end of this period, Meijering came to know that many of these paintings were in fact forgeries. He would later learn that the paintings were allegedly made by Van L. These forgeries led to Meijering starting civil procedures against Van L. At the center of these procedures stood ten artworks, which would later be reduced to five.
The civil case between Meijering and Van L. has been lasting for 14 years and is still ongoing. There are several reasons for the civil case going on for this long. For one, Meijering’s legal council made some grave errors. They took an extraordinary amount of time to write their complaints and summons. It took them almost an entire year to write their complaints for the appeal case. The judgment they appealed took place on January 30th, 2008. The appeal was deemed admissible on March 5th, 2008, which then led to an appeal summons on April 29th, 2008. The formal complaints weren’t filed until February 10th, 2009, almost a year later.
To make matters worse, the summons for the damages-proceedings would take almost three years. The judgment ordering the damages-proceedings was given on November 19th, 2014, but the summons for the damages-proceedings wouldn’t be filed until August 17th, 2017, by the new law firm representing Meijering. In the period between November 2014 and November 2016, after which Meijering switched legal council, no summons were filed. On top of this, the referral to the Assen Court and the consequent damages-proceedings could have been avoided. The Court of Appeal Leeuwarden had offered to also give a judgment with regards to the damages. Meijering’s legal council, as well as Van L.’s, however, both rejected this offer. If this offer had been accepted, the civil case could have been concluded much sooner, especially since no appeal could have been filed afterwards. The chaotic and slow nature of Meijering’s legal council might be the result of the fact that he was represented by five different lawyers during these procedures. Four of these worked for the same law-firm, but each time they had to be replaced due to the lawyer on the case leaving the firm.
Where Meijering’s legal council failed on a number of occasions, Van L.’s was quite successful in stalling the procedures. Not only did they cleverly use the procedural time periods, they further slowed down the proceedings by filing frivolous motions, for example demanding damages, whilst there being no actual claim. Although these practices are within the law, it could be viewed as excessive at times.
Lastly, although the courts are not directly to blame for the extensive duration of the procedures, they could have easily avoided some of the delay. Prime example hereof are the numerous settlement conferences ordered by the courts. It should have been abundantly clear after the first two, that the parties would never reach a settlement. Besides avoiding these pointless hearings, the court could also have taken a more proactive stance with regards to submission deadlines and the frivolous motions of Van L. It is within the procedural power of judges to set shorter time periods for the submission of documents if the nature of the case dictates it. A procedure that has been ongoing for years clearly meets the requirements for stricter deadlines. As to the frivolous motions, it is well within the powers of judges to directly ignore and decline motions of such nature.
The conclusion must be that this civil case, that has been ongoing for 14 years, could have been concluded a lot sooner if not for Meijering’s faulty legal council, Van L.’s stalling tactics, and the passive attitude of the courts.
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