Amtsgericht is German for Local Court. These courts form the lowest level of the so-called ordinary jurisdiction of the German judiciary (German Ordentliche Gerichtsbarkeit), which is responsible for most criminal and civil judicial matters. The German Amtsgericht may be compared with the magistrates' courts in England and Wales.
The main areas of an Amtsgericht's jurisdiction are:
- court of first instance for civil case where the subject of litigation is worth 5,000 euros or less, and for litigation involving rental agreements, marriages, alimony and child custody.
- court of first instance for criminal cases where a fine or a prison term of no more than four years can be imposed.
- administration of several public register such as the companies', the associations', the cooperatives' and the land ownership register.
There are 640 Amtsgerichte in Germany, whose jurisdictional area typically comprises a small number of towns or municipalities. The next higher level of ordinary jurisdiction is called Landgericht.
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