On 13 October 2021, the district court of Haarlem rendered a verdict in the case against the Good Shepherd. In its verdict, the court ruled on an action to produce evidence ('exhibition-request') that was filed on behalf of the plaintiffs this summer. The court granted a large part of the exhibition-request.
The court case against the Good Shepherd was initiated last year by 19 women who were placed in residential institutions run by the Good Shepherd in their youth and had to perform forced labor there. The Clara Wichmann Foundation is also plaintiff in the proceedings on behalf of other women who were victims of forced labor during their stay with the Good Shepherd. Two parties have been engaged for the Good Shepherd: the Euphrasia Convent (Klooster Euphrasia) in Bloemendaal and the European Province of the Good Shepherd in Angers (France). In response to the writ of summons, they i.a. contested that they are the legal successors of the institutions where the plaintiffs stayed and had to perform forced labor. The defendants also contest that the Good Shepherd had any say over those institutions. This summer, and in response to those defenses, the plaintiffs requested documents that are supposed to offer clarity about the defendants’ legal position and the control over the institutions.
The oral arguments with regard to the exhibition-request were presented before the district court of Haarlem on 2 September 2021. Last Wednesday, the court rendered its verdict. It held that the defendants must hand over a relatively large number of the documents that the plaintiffs had requested within 8 weeks.
As in the main case, the defendants have also argued that the exhibition-request was out of time. In its verdict however, the court held that it cannot rule on the question of whether that limitation-defense can be upheld. In order to do so, it is important to know whether the (legal predecessors) of the defendants had control over the institutions where the plaintiffs stayed, as well as what the nature and scope of this was. The plaintiffs had also filed their request for documents in order to obtain more clarity about this. The statute of limitations is a defense that will be assessed when the main case is dealt with substantively, which is set to happen over the course of 2022.