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Encyclopedia > Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
The Bundesverfassungsgericht
The Bundesverfassungsgericht
Germany

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
Germany
Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2133x1506, 972 KB) Bundesverfassungsgericht, Karlsruhe Photograph Tobias Helfrich, January 14th, 2005. ... Image File history File links Download high resolution version (2133x1506, 972 KB) Bundesverfassungsgericht, Karlsruhe Photograph Tobias Helfrich, January 14th, 2005. ... Image File history File links Coat_of_Arms_of_Germany. ... Politics of Germany takes place in a framework of a federal parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the Federal Chancellor is the head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. ...

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The Federal Constitutional Court (in German: Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) is a special court established by the German constitutional document, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). From its inception, the Court has been located in the city of Karlsruhe, intentionally dislocated from the other federal institutions (earlier in Bonn, now in Berlin). The Bundesrat (federal council) is the representation of the 16 Federal States (Länder) of Germany at the federal level. ... The Bundestag (Federal Diet) is the parliament of Germany. ... The Federal Convention (Bundesversammlung) is a special body in the institutional system of Germany, convoked only for the purpose of selecting the Bundespräsident every five years. ... The Bundesgerichtshof or BGH (German for federal court) is the highest Germany for civil and criminal lawsuits. ... The President of Germany (German: Bundespräsident) is Germanys head of state. ... Horst Köhler ( â–¶(?), born 22 February 1943) is the current President of Germany. ... The head of government of Germany has been known as the Chancellor (German: Kanzler) ever since the creation of the post. ... Angela Dorothea Merkel (pronounced //), born in Hamburg, Germany on July 17, 1954 is the current Chancellor of Germany. ... The Cabinet of Germany (German: Bundeskabinett, Bundesregierung) is the chief executive body of the Federal Republic of Germany. ... Germany is a Federal Republic made up of 16 States, known in German as Länder (transliterated as Laender in English, singular Land). ... There are 439 German districts (Kreise), administrative units in Germany. ... Elections in Germany gives information on election and election results in Germany, including elections to the Federal Diet (the lower house of the federal parliament), the Landtage of the various states, and local elections. ... This is a list of political parties in Germany. ... Germany is seen to be one of the democratic nations in Europe. ... The Federal Republic of Germany is a Central European country and member of the European Union, Group of 8 and NATO (among others). ... The European Union or EU is a supranational and intergovernmental union of 25 European states. ... Image File history File links European_flag. ... Information on politics by country is available for every country, including both de jure and de facto independent states, inhabited dependent territories, as well as areas of special sovereignty. ... A constitution is a system, often codified in a written document, which establishes the rules and principles by which an organization is governed. ... The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Grundgesetz für die Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is the constitution of modern Germany. ... Karlsruhe (population 283,959 in 2005) is a city in the south west of Germany, in the Bundesland Baden-Württemberg, located near the French-German border. ... Bonn is a city in Germany (19th largest), in the Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia, located about 20 kilometres south of Cologne on the river Rhine in the north of the Siebengebirge. ... Berlin is the capital city and a state of Germany. ...


The sole task of the court is judicial review. It may therefore declare public acts unconstitutional and thus render them ineffective. As such, it is somewhat similar to the Supreme Court of the United States. However, it differs from it and other supreme courts in that it is not part of the regular judicial system, but more a unique judicial branch. Judicial review is the power of a court to review a law or an official act of a government employee or agent for constitutionality or for the violation of basic principles of justice. ... Constitutionality is the status of a law, procedure, or act being in accordance with the laws or guidelines contained in a constitution. ... The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest judicial body in the United States and leads the judicial branch of the United States federal government. ... The supreme court in some countries, provinces, and states, functions as a court of last resort whose rulings cannot be challenged. ...


Most importantly, it does not serve as a regular court of appeals from lower courts or the Federal Supreme Court (BGH) as a sort of “superappellate court” on any violation of federal laws. Its jurisdiction is focused on constitutional issues, the integrity of the Grundgesetz and the immediate compliance of any governmental institution in any detail (article 1 subsection 3 of the Grundgesetz). Even constitutional amendments or changes passed by the Parliament are subject to its judicial review, since they have to be compatible with the most basic principles of the Grundgesetz (due to its Article 79 (3), the so called 'eternity clause'). Court of Appeals is the title of certain appellate courts in various jurisdictions. ... The Bundesgerichtshof or BGH (German for federal court) is the highest appeals court in Germany for cases of civil and criminal law. ...


The court’s practice of enormous constitutional control frequency on the one hand, and the continuity in judicial self-restraint and political revision on the other hand, created a unique defender of the Grundgesetz since World War II and assigned a remarkably outstanding role in a modern democracy.

Contents


Procedures

Article 20 subsection 3 of the Grundgesetz stipulates that all the three branches of the state –legislative, executive and judicial– are bound directly by the constitution. As a result, the court can abolish acts of all three branches as unconstitutional — either for formal violations, e.g. exceeding powers or violating procedures, or for material conflicts, e.g. because the civil rights prescribed in the Grundgesetz were not respected. Due to the principle of subsidiarity, no case may be brought before it until judicial review through another court branch has been completed.


Decisions of the court on material conflicts are put into force through a federal law by the Federal Constitutional Court Act (BVerfGG).


The Constitutional Court has several strictly defined procedures in which cases may be brought before it:

  • With a Constitutional Complaint (Verfassungsbeschwerde), any person may file a complaint alleging that his or her constitutional rights were violated. Although only a small fraction of these are actually successful (ranging around 2.5 % since 1951), several of these resulted in major legislation overturns, especially in the field of taxation. The large majority of the court's procedures fall in this category, with 135,968 such Complaints filed from 1957 to 2002.
  • Several political institutions, including the governments of the Bundesländer, may bring a law passed by the federal legislation before the court if they consider it unconstitutional (procedure of Abstract Regulation Control). The most well-known examples of these procedures included legislation legalizing abortion, which -- in highly debated rulings -- were declared unconstitutional twice by the Constitutional Court.
  • In addition, any regular court which has doubts about whether a law in question for a certain case is in conformance with the constitution may suspend that case and bring this law before the Federal Constitutional Court (procedure of Single Regulation Control).
  • Federal institutions, including members of the Bundestag, may bring internal disputes over competences and procedures before the court (Federal Dispute).
  • The Bundesländer may bring disputes over competences and procedures between them and federal institutions before the court (State-Federal Dispute).
  • Committee on parliament investigation, including single members of the Bundestag, or the federal government may bring internal disputes over competences and procedures in case of committee’s investigation before the court (Investigation Committee Control).
  • Violations of election laws may be brought before the court by political institution or any involved voter (Federal Election Scrutiny).
  • Impeachment cases against the President or a judge, member of one of the Federal Supreme Courts, brought by the Bundestag, the Bundesrat or the federal government, based on violation of constitutional or federal law (Impeachment Procedure).

Germany is a Federal Republic made up of 16 States, known in German as Länder (transliterated as Laender in English, singular Land). ... The German Supreme Court addressed the issue of abortion two years after Roe v. ... The Bundestag (Federal Diet) is the parliament of Germany. ... Germany is a Federal Republic made up of 16 States, known in German as Länder (transliterated as Laender in English, singular Land). ... The Bundestag (Federal Diet) is the parliament of Germany. ... The President of Germany (German: Bundespräsident) is Germanys head of state. ... The Bundesrat (federal council) is the representation of the 16 Germany at the federal level. ... A political party is an organization that seeks to attain political power within a government, usually by participating in electoral campaigns. ... The 1950s were the decade that spanned the years 1950 through 1959, although some sources say from 1951 through 1960. ... The Socialist Reich Party (German: Sozialistische Reichspartei) was a German political party founded in the aftermath of the Second World War, in 1949, as an openly National Socialist and Hitler-admiring split from the Deutsche Rechtspartei. ... The terms Neo-Nazism and Neo-Fascism refer to any social or political movement to revive Nazism or Fascism, respectively, and postdates the Second World War. ... 1952 (MCMLII) was a Leap year starting on Tuesday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1932 KPD poster, End This System The Communist Party of Germany (German Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands – KPD) was a major political party in Germany between 1918 and 1933, and a minor party in West Germany in the postwar period. ... 1956 (MCMLVI) was a leap year starting on Sunday of the Gregorian calendar. ... There is open debate on rather facism is rightwing or not. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Organization

The Court consists of two Senates, each of which has eight members, headed by a senate’s chairman. The members of each Senate are allocated to three Chambers for hearings in Constitutional Complaint and Single Regulation Control cases. Each Chamber consists of three judges, so each Senate chairman is at the same time a member of two Chambers.


Decisions by a Senate require an absolute majority of 5 votes (in some cases a 2/3 majority is required, i.e. 6 out of 8 votes), decisions by a Chamber need to be unanimous. A Chamber is not authorized to overrule a standing precendent of the Senate to which it belongs; such issues need to be submitted to the Senate as a whole. Similarly, a Senate may not overrule a standing precedent of the other Senate, such issues will be submitted to a plenary meeting of all 16 judges (the "Plenum").


Unlike all other German courts, the court often publishes the vote count on its decisions (though only the final tally, not every judge's personal vote) and even allows its members to issue a dissenting opinion. This possibility, which was only introduced in 1971, is a remarkable deviation from German judicial tradition. A dissenting opinion is an opinion of one or more judges in an appellate court expressing disagreement with the majority opinion. ...


One of the two Senate Chairmen is also the President of the Court, the other one is the Vice-President. The presidency alternates between the two Senates, i.e. the successor of a President is always chosen from the other Senate. The current president of the Court is Hans-Jürgen Papier. Hans-Jürgen Papier (* 6 July 1943 in Berlin) is a German scholar of constitutional law and, as of April 2002, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. ...


Election of judges

The Court's judges are elected by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. According to the Basic Law, each of these bodies selects four members of each Senate, while the authority to select the Court's President alternates between them. The selection of a judge requires a 2/3 majority. The Bundestag (Federal Diet) is the parliament of Germany. ... The Bundesrat (federal council) is the representation of the 16 Germany at the federal level. ... Article I of Basic Law (Human dignity is inviolable. ...


As a matter of fact, the Bundestag has delegated this task to a special body ("Richterwahlausschuss"), consisting of a small number of Bundestag members. This procedure has caused some constitutional concern and is considered to be unconstitutional by many scholars. However, it has never been challenged in a court. Since the only court that could hold this procedure unconstitutional is the Constitutional Court itself, this question will probably never be settled.


The judges are elected for a 12-year term, but they must retire when reaching the age of 68. A judge must be at least 40 years old and must be a well-trained jurist. Three out of eight members of each Senat must have served as a judge of a Federal Supreme Court. Of the other five members of each Senate, most judges previously served as a professor of law at a University, a public servant or an attorney. After ending their term, most judges withdraw themselves from public life. However, there are some prominent exceptions, most notably Roman Herzog, who was elected Federal President in 1994, shortly before the end of his term as President of the Court. Prof. ... The President of Germany (German: Bundespräsident) is Germanys head of state. ... 1994 (MCMXCIV) was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated as the International Year of the Family and the International Year of the Sport and the Olympic Ideal. // Events January Bill Clinton January 1 : North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) goes into effect. ...


Members

First Senate (current only)

The judges of the First Senate, as of 2004
The judges of the First Senate, as of 2004
Name Term
Hans-Jürgen Papier (*1943)
(President of the Court, Chairman of the Senate)
2/1998 - 2/2010 (12-year term)
Evelyn Haas (*1949) 9/1994 - 9/2006 (12-year term)
Dieter Hömig (*1938) 10/1995 - 2/2006 (retirement)
Udo Steiner (*1939) 10/1995 - 972007 (retirement)
Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt (*1950) 1/1999 - 1/2011 (12-year term)
Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem (*1940) 12/1999 - 3/2008 (retirement)
Brun-Otto Bryde (*1943) 1/2001 - 1/2011 (retirement)
Reinhard Gaier (*1954) 11/2004 - 11/2016 (retirement)

Image File history File links Bundesverfassungsgericht_Erster_Senat_2004. ... Image File history File links Bundesverfassungsgericht_Erster_Senat_2004. ... Hans-Jürgen Papier (* 6 July 1943 in Berlin) is a German scholar of constitutional law and, as of April 2002, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. ... 1943 (MCMXLIII) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1943 calendar). ... 1949 (MCMXLIX) was a common year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1949 calendar). ... 1938 (MCMXXXVIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1939 (MCMXXXIX) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1950 (MCML) was a common year starting on Sunday (link will take you to calendar). ... 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1940 calendar). ... 1943 (MCMXLIII) was a common year starting on Friday (the link is to a full 1943 calendar). ... 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Second Senate (current only)

The judges of the Second Senate, as of 2005
The judges of the Second Senate, as of 2005
Name Term
Winfried Hassemer (*1940)
(Vice-President of the Court, Chairman of the Senate)
5/1996 - 2/2008 (retirement)
Siegfried Broß (*1946) 9/1998 - 9/2010 (12-year term)
Lerke Osterloh (*1944) 10/1998 - 10/2010 (12-year term)
Udo Di Fabio (*1954) 12/1999 - 12/2011 (12-year term)
Rudolf Mellinghoff (*1954) 1/2001 - 1/2013 (12-year term)
Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff (*1953) 4/2002 - 4/2014 (12-year term)
Michael Gerhardt (*1948) 7/2003 - 7/2015 (12-year term)
Herbert Landau (*1948) 10/2005 - 4/2016 (retirement)

Image File history File links Bundesverfassungsgericht_Zweiter_Senat_2005. ... Image File history File links Bundesverfassungsgericht_Zweiter_Senat_2005. ... 1940 (MCMXL) was a leap year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1940 calendar). ... 1946 (MCMXLVI) was a common year starting on Tuesday. ... 1944 (MCMXLIV) was a leap year starting on Saturday (the link is to a full 1944 calendar). ... Udo Di Fabio (born March 26, 1954 in Duisburg) is a German jurist and a member of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Germanys highest court. ... 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1954 (MCMLIV) was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar. ... 1953 (MCMLIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link is to a full 1953 calendar). ... 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1948 calendar). ... 1948 (MCMXLVIII) was a leap year starting on Thursday (the link is to a full 1948 calendar). ...

Presidents of the Senate

Prof. ... Jutta Limbach Jutta Limbach (born March 27, 1934 in Berlin) is a German jurist and politician. ... Hans-Jürgen Papier (* 6 July 1943 in Berlin) is a German scholar of constitutional law and, as of April 2002, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. ...

All judges

  • Ernst Benda
  • Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde
  • Werner Böhmer
  • Siegfried Broß
  • Hans Brox
  • Brun-Otto Bryde
  • Udo Di Fabio
  • Thomas Dieterich
  • Wilhelm Ellinghaus
  • Hans Joachim Faller
  • Reinhard Gaier
  • Michael Gerhardt
  • Karin Graßhof
  • Dieter Grimm
  • Karl Haager
  • Evelyn Haas
  • Winfried Hassemer
  • Johann Friedrich Henschel
  • Roman Herzog
  • Konrad Hesse
  • Dieter Hömig
  • Hermann Höpker-Aschoff
  • Christine Hohmann-Dennhardt
  • Wolfgang Hoffmann-Riem
  • Renate Jaeger
  • Hans-Joachim Jentsch
  • Rudolf Katz
  • Dietrich Katzenstein
  • Paul Kirchhof
  • Hans Hugo Klein
  • Konrad Kruis
  • Jürgen Kühling
  • Herbert Landau
  • Gerhard Leibholz
  • Jutta Limbach
  • Gertrude Lübbe-Wolff
  • Ernst Gottfried Mahrenholz
  • Rudolf Mellinghoff
  • Gebhard Müller
  • Engelbert Niebler
  • Gisela Niemeyer
  • Lerke Osterloh
  • Hans-Jürgen Papier
  • Theodor Ritterspach
  • Joachim Rottmann
  • Wiltraut Rupp-von Brünneck
  • Erna Scheffler
  • Fabian von Schlabrendorff
  • Helga Seibert
  • Otto Seidl
  • Walter Seuffert
  • Helmut Simon
  • Alfred Söllner
  • Bertold Sommer
  • Helmut Steinberger
  • Udo Steiner
  • Ernst Träger
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Wagner
  • Klaus Winter
  • Wolfgang Zeidler

Udo Di Fabio (born March 26, 1954 in Duisburg) is a German jurist and a member of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Germanys highest court. ... Prof. ... Paul Kirchhof (* February 21, 1943 in Osnabrück) is a German expert in law and finance. ... Jutta Limbach Jutta Limbach (born March 27, 1934 in Berlin) is a German jurist and politician. ... Hans-Jürgen Papier (* 6 July 1943 in Berlin) is a German scholar of constitutional law and, as of April 2002, President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. ... Fabian von Schlabrendorff Fabian von Schlabrendorff (born 1 July 1907 in Halle an der Saale; died 3 September 1980 in Wiesbaden) trained as a lawyer, later joining the German Army. ... Helmut Simon (1937 – October 15, 2004) was a German alpinist from Nuremberg. ...

External links

  • www.bundesverfassungsgericht.de, the Court's website
  • Federal Constitutional Court Act (BVerfGG) in German


Supreme Courts of Germany
Bundesverfassungsgericht | Gemeinsamer Senat der Obersten Gerichtshöfe
Bundesverwaltungsgericht | Bundesgerichtshof | Bundesfinanzhof | Bundesarbeitsgericht | Bundessozialgericht

  Results from FactBites:
 
Federal Constitutional Court of Germany - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1330 words)
The Federal Constitutional Court (in German: Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG) is a special court established by the German constitutional document, the Grundgesetz (Basic Law).
Impeachment cases against the President or a judge, member of one of the Federal Supreme Courts, brought by the Bundestag, the Bundesrat or the federal government, based on violation of constitutional or federal law (Impeachment Procedure).
The Court's judges are elected by the Bundestag and the Bundesrat.
Federal Administrative Court of Germany - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (188 words)
The Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) is one of the five federal supreme courts of Germany.
It is the federal court of appeals for generally all cases of administrative law, mainly disputes between citizens and the state.
However, cases concerning social security law belong to the jurisdiction of the Sozialgerichte (Social Courts) with the Bundessozialgericht as federal court of appeals, and cases of tax and customs law are decided by the Finanzgerichte (Finance Courts), and, ultimately, by the Bundesfinanzhof.
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