The hearing room was familiar: a desk at the front for the judge and the clerk, two tables for the opposing sides, facing the judge, and seating for others in the back. I sat between Hans and my translator, introductions were made. I thought that I might need to proven my identity, but nobody asked for passport or ID. There was a preliminary motion to dismiss our exhibits, which the judge set aside before motioning for Hans to begin.
Arguments are presented in a formal written outline which is read by the seated attorney. Everyone else follows along with their copies of the text. The translator whispered into my ear as Hans proceeded; I knew the arguments by heart and could read the Dutch but it was good to have the confirmation in the background. The judge asked, in curiosity, what my company was building, and took the answer in English.
The opposing counsel then offered their brief and began by questioning whether the court had jurisdiction, since I was a US citizen bringing an action against a US company. Since my company and subcontractors were Dutch, the judge asserted that he did have authority. The translator interrupted to ask if the counsel could speak a bitt more lowly so that he could keep up. The opposing lawyer went though his arguments, the judge asked occasional questions or made comments. At the conclusion, Hans was given a chance to respond and there was back and forth debate about several points and closer inspection of some exhibits.
I was impressed with the procedure. The judge listened well, asked good pointed questions, and cut through the smoke with a simple clarifying observation on several occasions. When the US folks asserted that the money was a loan and not a payable, for example, he noted that it would need to be repaid in either case.
Sometimes, Dutch bluntness is good.
After about an hour, the judge said that he was ready to give me the last word. I was surprised, but said that it was a simple debt, that I had made sure that my Dutch subcontractors were taken care of, and that I simply wanted what was owed to my business. He nodded and said that he was ready to rule.
The conclusion was two-fold. First, he was going to give everyone one week to put a negotiated solution together that he would give the “King’s Stamp”, binding on all of us. If that couldn’t be done, then he would render a verdict.
It was a very practical outcome, and I think that we had a good day in court, potentially bringing things closer to a favorable outcome.
We’ll see what the coming days bring. But, as I commented to a good friend, both of my companies now feel like they will survive and have a future.
Which means, finally, so do I.