In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung the President
of the Federal Constitutional Court, Professor Hans-Jürgen Papier, criticised
the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for adjudicating
on cases which were already being handled by competent domestic courts (09.12.2004).
Professor Papier argued that, rather than becoming involved in the details of
specific areas of the law, the Court should concentrate on landmark decisions.
The remarks were made in reaction to a recent disagreement between the ECHR
and the Court in Karlsruhe on family law.
The Judicial Communications Bill, which will replace the paper
files currently used in German courts with electronic files, has been introduced
in the Bundestag (04.11.2004). The Federal Government pursued this
initiative following assurances that data protection issues could be addressed
by means of encryption tools. However, calls for legislation allowing more information
about court decisions on the Internet were rejected on the grounds that Internet
access was still not widespread and hence large sections of the population would
be denied access to the material.
In a move to increase judges’ practical understanding of economic and
commercial matters, the state of Rheinland-Pfalz has introduced a requirement
on all junior judges to undertake a six-month internship in
a company. In order to ensure that judges are given a balanced view of commercial
practice, judges will learn about the work of the company from the perspective
of both managers and employees (04.10.2004).
The local court (Amtsgericht) in Bonn had to decide whether a lawyer was entitled
to charge fees according to a claim based on a typing error. The revenue office
in Bonn had billed a citizen for €1,100,017,000 in taxes instead of €17,000.
The advocate who successfully clarified the situation took the original figure
as the basis for calculating his fee and claimed 2.3 million Euro in fees (for
information on the principles of German lawyers’ fees
The court has so far suggested settling the case with a fee of at least €440
The Federal Social Court in Kassel celebrated its 50th anniversary
(28.09.2004).Over five decades the court has contributed to the development
of social law in the area of social insurance. Since the latest reforms in this
part of the law are expected to bring with them a flood of new cases, a new
senate will be established shortly.
A number of new laws came into force at the beginning of this month (01.08.2004).
These included 30 new training regulations, taxation on Alcopops,
new regulations to combat moonlighting and legislation to
encourage the generation of energy from biomass. In addition,
legal instruments for preventative detention (nachträgliche
Sicherungsverwahrung) and custody (Betreungsrecht) were improved.
The Federal Government published an intermediate report on the impact of the “lean
bureaucracy” campaign (07.07.2004). The campaign has led to
the abolition of 200 outdated or useless statutory norms, among them the 1933
Imperial Concordat Act (Gesetz zur Durchf_hrung des Reichkonkordats, or the
Act for the Unwinding Colonial Corporations). In a second step, remaining provisions
are to be edited
in order to make them easier to understand.
From 19.07.04 the German and the European flags will be displayed
on the building of the Federal Constitutional Court. President Hans-Jürgen
Papier ordered that the Court, as other constitutional bodies, displayed the
At a conference in Bremerhafen, the regional Ministers of Justice agreed on
measures to unify the public law courts system (17.06.2004).
The majority of Länder favoured a system, under which administrative,
social and tax courts would no longer function as separate branches. In spite
of criticism from trade unions and the bar association, these proposals, which
require a change in the constitution, will now come before the Federal Parliament
The Federal Labour Court celebrated its 50th anniversary
with a ceremony in Erfurt (11.05.2004). The court was established in 1954 and
initially located in Kassel. In 1999 it became the first federal agency to
move entirely to one of the new Länder – the new building is located
in Erfurt/Thuringa close to the Dome. Since 1954 the court has delivered 42,600
judgments, the number of senates has increased from two to ten, and the number
of judges from just five to 34. Some of the more remarkable cases dealt with
by the court include the forced labourer case and (more recently) the case
dealing with the status of emergency doctors on stand-by duty. But the court
has also dealt with more mundane questions such as whether the employer is
entitled to fold a reference or whether a drummer is entitled to a bonus for
producing the sound
The German Bar Association has criticised recently discussed plans to abolish special
labour courts (05.03.2004). Chairman Hein Josef Willemsen maintains
that even well-trained private lawyers could only cope with the special demands
of labour law after a longer period of training. Labour law, he said, was characterised
by a complicated relationship between statutory norms and individual and collective
contracts and precedents, as well as considerable interconnection with social
law. He maintained that the highly professional labour courts had so far proved
a great advantage for Germany as a business location and should be preserved.
The President of the German Bar Association, Hartmut Kilger, proposed that
more experienced barristers should become judges at the federal
courts (20.04.2004). Kilger argued that barristers’ experience in alternative
dispute resolution might prove an especially good qualification in comparison
with other judges,
who only have experience of litigious disputes.
The Federal Supreme Court has lodged a complaint against tabloid newspaper “BILD” with
the German Press Council (02.02.2004). The newspaper used
headlines such as “scandal judges” and “pigsty jurisprudence” when
reporting on the release of a rapist. It also used a picture of the judges,
which made them look like criminals. This is the first time that such a complaint
has been made by a court; judges feel that this kind of journalism is no longer
by the freedom of the press.
31 January 2003 was the last working day of the Federal Disciplinary
Court (Bundesdisziplinargericht) in Frankfurt. Founded
in 1967, the Court was responsible for disciplinary cases against federal
servants but, following the unification of disciplinary law in the Länder and
at federal level, this responsibility will now fall to the administrative
courts in the Länder (05.01.04).
The President of the Federal Labour Court, Wißmann, does not support
the idea of merging different branches of jurisdiction. In reply to proposals
for a reorganisation of the judicial system, Wißmann
said that any merger might decrease the efficiency developed through highly
specialized judges (01.12.2003).
The states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony have suggested the introduction
of court fees in social court trials (07.10.2003). In a debate
of the Federal Assembly (Bundesrat), Baden-Württemberg proposed
to have unsuccessful claimants pay court fees of €150 for first, €225
for the second and €300
for the third instance decisions.
The practical training of the legal professions in the Saarland
has been reshaped by new legislation, which places more emphasis on the training
of lawyers (06.10.2003). Traditionally, the programmes in German law faculties
concentrate on the role model of the judge. Now key qualifications such as
mediation, rhetoric and communication are meant to target more important skills
of future practicing
The German Judges Association (Deutscher Richterbund) released a
draft proposal for a modification of the right to instruct state attorneys.
Thus far, Ministers of Justice are entitled to give instructions on legal and
factual matters. The German Judges Association identifies the independence
of state attorneys as a factor in stopping speculations about privileges of
certain suspects. Politicians, however, seem to remain reluctant to give up
rights of supervision.
The presidents of the 28 regional bar associations in Germany confirmed Bernhard
Dombek as president of the German Bar Association for another
4-year term in office. Dombek said that he is going to focus on smaller law
firms during his next term (22.09.2003).
The German Judges Association heavily criticised the overall
policy approach of the federal government as well as that of the states (15.09.2003).
Arenhövel, the Secretary General of the organisation, said at the annual
meeting in Dresden that a convincing strategy is necessary – instead
of an uncoordinated search for opportunities to save money. Besides that, the
did not carry their share in possible reforms. Politicians risked economic
damage by downsizing the judiciary.
At a summit of commissioners dealing with files of
the former intelligence service of the GDR in Brandenburg (17.06.2003), several
participants complained about
insufficient rehabilitation of victims of the SED regime. The states of Thüringen,
Sachsen and Sachsen-Anhalt launched an initiative aiming for a prolonged deadline
for applications concerning rehabilitation.
The ministers of justice of Bayern,
Hesse and Brandenburg presented a draft bill aiming at judicial acceleration (22.05.2003). Key elements are a more
recording of evidence, especially for witnesses in private law disputes,
and the modification of appeals in criminal law.