Federal Court of Justice of Germany: Wikis


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The Federal Court of Justice of Germany (German: Bundesgerichtshof, BGH) 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 civil law. A decision handed down by the BGH can only be reversed by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in rare cases when the Constitutional Court rules on constitutionality (compatibility with the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany).



Before the Federal Court of Justice of Germany was created in its present form, Germany has had several prior 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] 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]

Organisation and functions

In order to fulfill its functions, which are explained below, the Federal Court of Justice of Germany is subdivided in twenty-five senates:

Twelve of them are the civil panels (Zivilsenate), five additional ones are the criminal panels (Strafsenate) and the eight remaining ones are special panels. [5]

The general function of the Federal Court of Justice is to save the uniformity of the jurisdiction on the one side, and to do law-development on the other side. So usually it just reconsiders the legal assessment of a case as a court of last resort. [6] To that effect the following legal-sections can be differentiated in the area of responsibility of the Federal Court of Justice:

In the civil law it takes action by reconsidering decrees of the regional courts (Landgericht) and of the regional appeal courts (Oberlandesgericht). In some special cases they also reconsider first-instance decrees of the local courts (Amtsgericht) and the regional courts. Here it can decide that an application for revision is improper —then the application gets discarded— or that it is valid – then it has to decide about the case. [7]

In the criminal law it has to decide about applications for revision against first-instance decrees of the regional courts (e. g. Murder-delicts) and of the regional appeal courts (for example in state security delicts). Here it has to decide whether an application is blatantly reasonless or whether it is blatantly reasonable in support of the defendant. In both of these cases it can decide without a main trial. In any other case, it has to decide about the legal remedy after a main trial. [8]

Finally it decides about the so-called “Vorlagesachen” (approximately: submission cases): If a regional appeal court plans to differ from a decision of another regional appeal court or from one of the Federal Court of Justice, it has to inform the Federal Court of Justice about that, which has to decide finally about this case. This is to save the homogeneity of the jurisdiction. [9]



Judges of the Federal Court of Justice are elected by an electoral committee, which consists of 16 Justice Secretaries and of 16 people, who were elected by the Bundestag. After the judge has been elected by this committee, he is appointed by the President of Germany. Only persons who are German citizens within the meaning of the Art. 116 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany and have the ability for judgeship according to the §9 DRiG and are finally at least 35 years old can be appointed to a judge at the Federal Court of Justice. [10]

Presidents [11]
order 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

Vice Presidents

  • Horst Hagen
  • Fritz Hauß
  • Burkhard Jähnke
  • Gerda Müller
  • Joachim Wenzel

Presiding Judges

  • Friedrich Blumenröhr
  • Katharina Deppert
  • Wolf-Dieter Dressler
  • Willi Erdmann
  • Wulf Goette
  • Werner Groß
  • Max Güde
  • Monika Harms
  • Gerhart Kreft
  • Klaus Kutzer
  • Heinrich Wilhelm Laufhütte
  • Lutz Meyer-Goßner
  • Armin Nack
  • Gerd Nobbe
  • Eberhard Rinne
  • Ruth Rissing-van Saan
  • Rüdiger Rogge
  • Volker Röhricht
  • Gerhard Schäfer
  • Herbert Schimansky
  • Wolfgang Schlick
  • Karl-Bernhard Schmitz
  • Ingeborg Tepperwien
  • Wilfried Terno


  • Ekkehard Appl
  • Gerhard Athing
  • Clemens Basdorf
  • Jörg Peter Becker
  • Alfred Bergmann
  • Rolf Bischoff
  • Peter Blauth
  • Bernhard Bode
  • Axel Boetticher
  • Hans-Peter Brause
  • Siegfried Broß
  • Hans-Joachim Brüning
  • Wolfgang Büsche
  • Erhard Bungeroth
  • Gabriele Calliebe
  • Ursula Safari Chabestari
  • Jürgen Cierniak
  • Hans-Joachim Czub
  • Klaus Detter
  • Hans-Joachim Dose
  • Renate Elf
  • Andreas Ernemann
  • Hans Joachim Faller
  • Detlev Fischer
  • Thomas Fischer
  • Ulrich Franke
  • Reinhard Gaier
  • Gregor Galke
  • Markus Gehrlein
  • Alfons van Gelder
  • Wolfgang Gerber
  • Ursula Gerhardt
  • Jürgen von Gerlach
  • Jürgen-Peter Graf
  • Karl Haager
  • Joachim Häger
  • Ulrich Hebenstreit
  • Hartwig Henze
  • Monika Hermanns
  • Ulrich Herrmann
  • Dieter Hesselberger
  • Erwin Hubert
  • Gerbert Hübsch
  • Bernhard Jestaedt
  • Hans-Ulrich Joeres
  • Hans-Peter Kirchhof
  • Harald Kolz
  • Christine Krohn
  • Jürgen-Detlef Kuckein
  • Heidi Lambert-Lang
  • Reiner Lemke
  • Manfred Lepa
  • Gerhard von Lienen
  • Kurt Rüdiger Maatz
  • Heinrich Maul
  • Hans-Kurt Mees
  • Elisabeth Mühlens
  • Maren Münke
  • Wolfgang Neskovic
  • Wolfgang Pfister
  • Friedrich Quack
  • Rolf Raum
  • Angelika Reichart
  • Dietrich Reinicke
  • Karin-Huberta Ritter
  • Ellen Roggenbuck
  • Wolfgang Römer
  • Hans-Jürgen Schaal
  • Wilhelm Schluckebier
  • Jürgen Schmidt-Räntsch
  • Bertram Schmitt
  • Ernst Schneider
  • Otto Seidl
  • Helmut Simon (judge)
  • Joachim Siol
  • Daniela Solin-Stojanovic
  • Beate Sost-Scheible
  • Joachim Starck
  • Heinz Dieter Stodolkowitz
  • Christina Stresemann
  • Lutz Strohn
  • Rheinhold Thode
  • Ernst Träger
  • Karl-Friedrich Tropf
  • Gerhard Ulsamer
  • Gerhard Vill
  • Max Vogt
  • Thomas Wagenitz
  • Bernhard Wahl
  • Roland Wendt
  • Manfred Werp
  • Klaus Winter
  • Karl-Hermann Zoll
  • Jannpeter Zopfs
  • Horst Josef Zugehör
  • Lothar Zysk


In all cases, on which the civil panels has to decide, there is an enforcement to have a lawyer, who needs to be approved. The only lawyers that can be approved are those who are at least 35 years old, have been a (active) lawyer for at least five years and got nominated by the electoral committee. Requests for approval are decided by the Federal Ministry of Justice (Germany). In 2007 there were 44 approved lawyers at the court. [12]

Publication of decrees

Since 2000 decrees of the Federal Court of Justice are publicized on the official website of the court. [13]

External links


  • Brockhaus in drei Bänden” (German), page 839, ISBN 978-3-7-653-1514-5
  • Meyers Großes Taschenlexikon in 24 Bänden” (German), page 1038, ISBN 978-3-411-10063-7

  1. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf - page 4 (German)
  2. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf - page 5 (German)
  3. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/docs/broschuerebgh_2007.pdf - page 6 (German)
  4. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe/stellung.php (German)
  5. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe/verteilung.php (German)
  6. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe.php (German)
  7. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe/verfahren.php - point 1. (German)
  8. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe/verfahren.php - point 2. (German)
  9. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/aufgabe/verfahren.php - point 3. (German)
  10. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/richter/richter2.php (German)
  11. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/praesidenten.php (German)
  12. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/bgh/rechtsanwaelte.php (German)
  13. ^ http://www.bundesgerichtshof.de/entscheidungen/entscheidungen.php (German)

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


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