Federal Court of Justice

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The Federal Court of Justice (German: Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) in Karlsruhe is the highest court in the system of ordinary jurisdiction (ordentliche Gerichtsbarkeit) in Germany. It is the supreme court (court of last resort) in all matters of criminal and private law. A decision handed down by the BGH can be reversed only by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in the rare cases that the Constitutional Court rules on constitutionality (compatibility with the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany).

History[edit]

Before the Federal Court of Justice of Germany was created in its present form, Germany had several highest courts. As early as 1495 there was the so-called Reichskammergericht, which existed until 1806. As from 1870, in the time of the North German Confederation, there was the Bundesoberhandelsgericht in Leipzig. Later, in 1871, it was renamed to Reichsoberhandelsgericht and its area of responsibility was amplified as well.[1] This court was unsoldered by the Reichsgericht at October 1, 1879, which was also in Leipzig.[2] On 1 October 1950, five years after the German Reich had collapsed, the Bundesgerichtshof —as it exists nowadays— was founded.[3]

Together with the Federal Administrative Court of Germany, the Federal Finance Court of Germany, the Federal Labor Court of Germany and the Federal Social Court of Germany, the Federal Court of Justice is one of the highest courts of Germany today, located in Karlsruhe and Leipzig.[4]

Organization and functions[edit]

Seat of the Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe

The Federal Court of Justice of Germany is subdivided in twenty-five senates:

Twelve are civil panels (Zivilsenate), five are the criminal panels (Strafsenate) and eight are special panels.[5]

The Federal Court of Justice is to protect the unity of the jurisdiction and to develop the law. It usually just reconsiders the legal assessment of a case as a court of last resort.[6] To that effect, it can be differentiated in the area of responsibility of the Federal Court of Justice:

In civil law, it reconsiders decrees of the regional courts (Landgerichte) and of the regional appeal courts (Oberlandesgericht). In some special cases, it reconsiders first-instance decrees of the local courts (Amtsgericht) and the regional courts. It can decide that an application for revision is improper the or that it is valid, when it decides the case.[7]

In criminal law, it has to decide about applications for revision against first-instance decrees of the regional courts the regional appeal courts. It has to decide whether an application is blatantly unreasonable defendant. It can then decide without a main trial. In any other case, it decides the legal remedy after a main trial.[8]

Finally, it decides the Vorlagesachen (submission cases). If a regional appeal court plans to differ from a decision of another regional appeal court or a decision of the Federal Court of Justice, it has to inform the Federal Court of Justice, which decides the case finally and protects the unity of the jurisdiction.[9]

Since 2000, its decisions have been published on its official website.[10]

Judges[edit]

Judges of the Federal Court of Justice are selected by an electoral committee, which consists of the Secretaries of Justice of the 16 German Bundesländer and of 16 representatives appointed by the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag).[11] Once a judge has been chosen by this committee, he or she is appointed by the President of Germany.[12] Individuals who do not meet the personal requirements for lifetime judicial appointments are not eligible; in particular, individuals must be German citizens and must have the necessary educational background.[13] To be appointed as a judge at the Federal Court of Justice, an individual must, in addition, be 35 years of age or older.[14] Once appointed, the presidium of Federal Court of Justice assigns the new judge to one or more panels.[15]

As judges for life, judges of the Federal Court of Justice must retire upon reaching the retirement age.[16] The retirement age is between 65 and 67 years, depending on the year of birth.[17]

Presidents[edit]

[18]

name took office left office
1 Hermann Weinkauff (1894–1981) 1 October 1950 31 March 1960
2 Bruno Heusinger (1900–1987) 1 April 1960 31 March 1968
3 Robert Fischer (1911–1983) 1. April 1968 30. September 1977
4 Gerd Pfeiffer (1919–2007) 1 October 1977 31 December 1987
5 Walter Odersky (b. 1931) 1 January 1988 31 July 1996
6 Karlmann Geiß (b. 1935) 1 August 1996 31 May 2000
7 Günter Hirsch (b. 1943) 15 July 2000 31 January 2008
8 Klaus Tolksdorf (b. 1948) 1 February 2008 31 January 2014
9 Bettina Limperg (b. 1960) 1 July 2014

Vice Presidents[citation needed][edit]

Presiding Judges[citation needed][edit]

Judges[citation needed][edit]

Attorneys admitted at the Federal Court of Justice[edit]

In all civil cases heard by the Federal Court of Justice, the parties need to be represented by an attorney who has been specifically admitted to the bar at the Federal Court of Justice (Rechtsanwalt beim Bundesgerichtshof).[19] This admission is the only 'special' admission within the German court system; ordinarilly, an attorney admitted to the bar is permitted to practice before any court.[20] Conversely, an attorney at the Federal Court of Justice is only allowed to practice before the Federal Court of Justice, other federal courts of last instance, the Joint Senate of the Supreme Courts of the Federation and the Federal Constitutional Court.[21]

Admission to the bar at the Federal Court of Justice is highly selective; as of July 2020, only 40 attorneys are so admitted.[22] Candidates for admission are nominated by an electoral committee and are then chosen and appointed by the Federal Ministry of Justice.[23]

The requirement for a representative specifically admitted to the Federal Court of Justice does not apply in criminal cases. Here, representation by any lawyer admitted to the bar in Germany suffices.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf[permanent dead link] - page 4 (German)
  2. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf[permanent dead link] - page 5 (German)
  3. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf[permanent dead link] - page 6 (German)
  4. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/EN/TheCourt/TaskOrganisation/PositionFCoJ/positionFCoJ_node.html Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine (German)
  5. ^ "Federal Court of Justice - FcoJ: Allocation of Jurisdiction". www.bundesgerichtshof.de. Archived from the original on 2014-08-22. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
  6. ^ "Federal Court of Justice - FCoJ : Task and organisation". www.bundesgerichtshof.de.
  7. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/EN/TheCourt/TaskOrganisation/Proceedings/proceedings_node.html Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine - point 1.
  8. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/EN/TheCourt/TaskOrganisation/Proceedings/proceedings_node.html Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine - point 2.
  9. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/EN/TheCourt/TaskOrganisation/Proceedings/proceedings_node.html Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine - point 3.
  10. ^ "Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofs" (in German). Federal Court of Justice of Germany. Archived from the original on 28 July 2012. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
  11. ^ Article 95(2) GG [Basic Law]; ss 1(1), 2, 3(1), 4(1), 5(1) RiWG [Act on Electing Judges]; Helmuth Schulze-Fielitz in Horst Dreier (ed), Grundgesetz-Kommentar, vol 3 (3rd edn, Mohr Siebeck 2018), art 95 paras 26f.
  12. ^ Section 125(1) GVG [Courts Constitution Act]; s 1(1) RiWG; Helmuth Schulze-Fielitz in Horst Dreier (ed), Grundgesetz-Kommentar, vol 3 (3rd edn, Mohr Siebeck 2018), art 95 para 32.
  13. ^ Sections 9, 5ff DRiG [German Judiciary Act].
  14. ^ Section 125(2) GVG.
  15. ^ Cf s 21e(1) 1st sentence GVG.
  16. ^ Sections 48(1) 1st sentence, 48(2) DRiG; Klaus Weber, "Altersgrenzen" in Creifelds Rechtswörterbuch (24th edn, Beck 2020).
  17. ^ Sections 48(1) 2nd sentence, 48(3) DRiG; Klaus Weber, "Altersgrenzen" in Creifelds Rechtswörterbuch (24th edn, Beck 2020).
  18. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/EN/TheCourt/Presidents/presidents_node.html Archived 2014-08-22 at the Wayback Machine Presidents of the Federal Court
  19. ^ Sections 78(1) 3rd sentence ZPO [Code of Civil Procedure]; 114(2) FamFG [Act on Proceedings in Family Matters and in Matters of Non-contentious Jurisdiction].
  20. ^ Jens Adolphsen, Zivilprozessrecht (6th edn, Beck 2020), s 5 para 14.
  21. ^ Section 172(1) 1st sentence BRAO [Federal Lawyers' Act]; Jens Adolphsen, Zivilprozessrecht (6th edn, Beck 2020), s 5 para 14.
  22. ^ "Verzeichnis der BGH-Anwälte". Rechtsanwaltskammer beim BGH. Retrieved 2020-07-23. (German)
  23. ^ Sections 164, 170(1) 1st sentence BRAO; Volker Römermann and Wolfgang Hartung, Anwaltliches Berufsrecht (3rd edn, Beck 2018), s 7 para 5.
  24. ^ Volker Römermann, "Freigabe der Zulassung als BGH-Anwalt?" [2007] ZRP 207.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 49°00′22″N 8°23′48″E / 49.00611°N 8.39667°E / 49.00611; 8.39667