Nonjudicial Constitutional Interpretation: The Netherlands

This chapter focuses on the manner in which non-judicial actors engage in constitutional guardianship, using the Netherlands as a case study. Article 120 of the Dutch Constitution explicitly prohibits courts from examining the constitutionality of Acts of Parliament. Instead, other institutions ensure that constitutional rules and values are duly taken into account, especially when new legislation is under consideration. The chapter will focus in particular on the role that governments and civil servants play in verifying a bill’s constitutional conformity during the drafting stage; on the Council of State, which is tasked with providing non-partisan advice to the government on new bills; and on how Parliament itself goes about confronting constitutional issues during legislative debates. The Dutch experience shows that it is possible to successfully ensure constitutional supremacy even when judges are not available to act as ultimate protectors of the national constitution.