Justice and the Law in Germany
This is where you will find links to current legal literature and legal regulations, general information on jurisdiction, case-law databases and directories for legal professionals.
Private surfing on the job – reason for dismissal? And what if the boss surfs too? The portal arbeitsrecht.de (Employment Law) provides answers to these and other controversial questions and conveys comprehensive information regarding legalities on the job.
The Federal Labor Court (BAG – Bundesarbeitsgericht), which was moved from Kassel to Erfurt in 1999, is one of the five most supreme Courts of Justice in Germany and the highest authority in labor disputes involving claims to payment or correcting letters of reference. The judges decide on appeals against judgments made by the local and state labor courts.
The Federal Finance Court (BFH – Bundesfinanzhof) in Munich examines the official notifications issued by the tax and revenue offices and customs authorities on their legal correctness. The BFH is the final court of appeal for fiscal jurisdiction to ensure a uniform application of tax laws. It is the supreme federal court for customs duties and taxes.
As a rule, there is no evidence taken in this court. The Federal Court of Justice (BGH – Bundesgerichtshof) is Germany’s final court of appeal in ordinary cases – in private law and criminal law that have already been dealt with by the lower instances of the local and regional courts and the Intermediate Court of Appeal. In addition to examining individual cases, this court is responsible for maintaining the uniformity of the court decisions.
Germany’s laws, regulations and inter-country contracts do not become effective until they have been published in the “Federal Law Gazette” (BGBl - Bundesgesetzblatt). The official publication is issued by the Federal Ministry of Justice by the Federal Bulletin publishing company. The Basic Law was officially announced in the first issue of the BGBl on May 23, 1949.
The central task of the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) is to monitor competition in the free market economy. This includes such things as enforcing the prohibition of cartels and supervising mergers. It can apply European legislation on competition when the European Commission does not take action itself.
Everything comes together here: in the German Federal Bureau of Investigation (Bundeskriminalamt, BKA), the central Federal agency for police information and intelligence. The BKA coordinates the cooperation of the Federal States and is responsible for international cooperation, when such crimes as drug dealing, money laundering or trafficking in human beings cross international borders.
Different to lawyers, notary publics do not represent a party, but are rather impartial advisors to all parties involved in legal cases and responsible for the authentication of all types of documents. The Federal Association of Notary Publics (BnotK – Bundesnotarkammer) with its main offices in Berlin represents the interests of the German notaryship internationally as well.
Patents, trademarks, registered designs, topographies and design patents – the Federal Patent Court (BPatG – Bundespatentgericht) is the highest federal court in Germany for industrial property rights to decide on appeals against decisions made by the German Patent and Trademark Office. As a supreme federal court, the BPatG in Munich is also responsible for lawsuits demanding the declaration of nullity for patents valid in Germany.
The former Federal Border Guard was renamed the Federal Police on July 1, 2005. Do you know how many different kinds of tasks these law enforcement officers have to perform? The police are on duty all over Germany to prevent anyone from entering the country illegally and to provide security and safety for Germany’s railway network and civilian air traffic.
The representative body of the German legal profession: the Federal Association of the German Legal Profession (BRAK – Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer) represents German lawyers – and that means all lawyers because they are all legally obligated to join such an association.
The final appeal: the Federal Social Court (BSG – Bundessozialgericht) in Kassel is the final court for legal questions regarding pension and health insurance, family allowance and war victims’ benefits. As the federal supreme court for social law, it decides on appeals against judgments made by the higher social courts.
The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BverfG) in Karlsruhe monitors the adherence to the Basic Law. It is the supreme organ of constitutional jurisdiction, politically independent from all other constitutional organs. It is activated only on application. Decisions by the BverfG are non-appealable and binding for all other organs of state.
Germany’s highest court for administrative law: The Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG – Bundesverwaltungsgericht) in Leipzig is the appellate court for the application and interpretation of the federal law. In some cases, however, it also decides in the first instance, as in disputes between the national and the state matters or assemblies.
Do you need legal advice? All the members of the German Lawyers’ Association (DAV – Deutscher Anwaltverein) are listed in the database at www.anwaltauskunft.de. Simply enter your town/city, the legal field and the special area of practice you are looking for in the search engine.
Does the landlord have the right to keep a duplicate key? Must rent be reduced if ants infest the apartments? For more than 100 years the German Tenants’ Association (Deutscher Mieterbund e.V., DMB) has been upholding the interests of tenants. It offers legal advice to members and helps in the case of disputes.
The German Patent and Trade Mark Office (Deutsches Patent- und Markenamt, DPMA), with headquarters in Munich, is a federal superior authority subordinated to the Federal Ministry of Justice. It is the central authority in the field of industrial property law in Germany.
The Federal Gazette is the central platform for official pronouncements and announcements as well as legally relevant company news.
Central Command for combating crime in Europe: As the law enforcement agency of the European Union, Europol, the European Police Office, supports the national police forces and international organizations. With its headquarters located in The Hague, Netherlands, Europol first began its operations in 1994, as the Europol Drug Unit (EDU) – in 2002, its responsibilities were increased to cover all forms of serious international organized crime.
Trade and commercial law, civil or criminal law: in a joint project with juris, the legal information system, the German Ministry of Justice makes legal texts available for private use on the Internet free of charge.
juris – the “legal information system for the Federal Republic of Germany” – is one of the country’s most comprehensive collections of rulings on legal issues. The project, which was first commissioned by the German government in 1973, is now on its way to becoming a “print online publishing company”.
What advantages does an out-of-court settlement have to offer? Who is eligible for legal aid? The joint national and state judiciary portal provides a wealth of information on the German legal system. The Ministry of Justice in North Rhine-Westphalia manages this platform, which bundles many different links, addresses and forms.
Do you think your doctor may have treated you incorrectly? Your medical insurance company is refusing to pay for healthcare services? The Association of Medical Lawyers offers initial consulting services in medical and social law issues free of charge. Healthcare professionals can also take advantage of this service throughout Germany. The Medical Law Consulting Network was initiated together with the Health Foundation.
Concerned citizens in Germany can always reach their local police by dialing the emergency number: 110. In Germany, the Basic Law says that the police are a matter of each individual state; the federal police and the Federal Criminal Police Office, however, are under the control of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The officers wear different uniforms: many of the German states clothe their police officers in blue, others in green.
Train your seventh sense on how to protect yourself and your property. The federal and state police crime prevention program (ProPK) aims to provide information on criminal offences and suitable preventative measures. ProPK supports the local police stations in their crime prevention work.
Illegal employment, cigarette smuggling and product piracy: the customs authorities pursue criminals and guarantee that international goods traffic runs smoothly. On behalf of the state, the customs officers also levy duties. And to protect endangered animals and plants, they check travelers with suspicious souvenirs.