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The German court system explained

Zuletzt aktualisiert: 31.10.2018 | Autor: Gaius-Redaktion

There are a lot of differences between the German law and court system and the English and American systems. That being said, legal professionals largely agree that the system still aims to impart justice. There are lots of safeguards in place to work towards justice of every investigation and trials.

If you find yourself dealing with the German justice system at some point in life, here are the basics of what you need to know:


There are a few different types of German courts where your case will be looked into. The kind of court in which your case will be heard will be determined by the nature of your case and how serious it is. If you want to make an appeal, there are also a few higher courts in which you can do so.

Jury trials don’t exist generally in Germany and judges are a lot more involved in court proceedings compared to American and Anglo courts. Besides that, procedures are quite comparable to that of courts in other countries.

The German criminal law is based on one important assumption: innocent until proven guilty.


The judges presiding over your case will vary depending on the type of court. In some cases, a single judge looks over the case, while in others, a combination of professional judges and lower-tier judges preside. Most minor cases will be heard by only one professional judge, but there may be up to five in major cases. The five will usually be made up of anywhere from three to five professional judges, with lay judges making up the rest.

The professional judges serving in the different “Länder”, or any of the German states, are legal professionals who have achieved high grades and completed training before being employed as civil servants for the remainder of their career. Lay judges, on the other hand, are normal people who have been elected by a committee to serve for a certain period of time. Any judge serving in a federal court is a legal expert – either a professional judge, judicial officer or a lawyer.


The German legal system has both ordinary and specialized courts. They are as follows:


Any civil, criminal, family, and marriage case is usually handled by the Ordinary Courts. Company matters and registrations are as well. Ordinary Courts make up the greatest number of courts in Germany. There are four types of Ordinary Courts. The first level is the Local Court, also known as the “Amtsgerichte”, which usually has one to three professional judges presiding. Sole judges are occasionally joined by up to two lay judges. The next level is the Regional Court, also known as the “Landgericht”, presided by up to three professional judges and two lay judges. The third tier is the Higher Regional courts, known as the “Oberlandesgerichte”, presided over by up to five professional judges. Finally, at the highest tier is the Federal Court of Justice, known as Bundesgerichtshof, where five professional judges preside at all times. Criminal cases are usually heard by one of the lower three tiers. Civil matters are brought to the first two. Appeals are only heard by the Higher Regional courts and the Federal Court of Justice. In addition there is a Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) and Constitutional Courts (“Verfassungsgericht”) in every German state.


There are three different types of Verwaltungsgerichte, or specialized administrative law courts. These are the courts where in general matters of government are heard.

Labor Law Courts (Arbeitsgerichte)

The labor law courts hear cases related to employment issues, workers’ rights, and collective bargaining agreements. There are three different levels of labor law courts and cases are assigned to them depending on nature and severity.

Social Law Courts (Sozialgerichte)

Social benefits are addressed in social law courts. Unemployment payments, worker compensation claims, and social security matters are brought here. As in the labor law courts, there are three levels that cases are assigned to.

Financial Courts (Finanzgerichte)

Unlike the prior two courts, the financial courts have only two tiers. They specialize in cases involving tax issues.

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