The legal system in Germany is based on the Civil Code and the courts are independent entities from the federal government. The particularity of the German court system lies in the fact that judges are allowed to investigate the facts of case themselves. The judicial system in Germany is made of ordinary courts, specialized courts and constitutional courts.
The German ordinary courts usually rule in criminal and civil matters such as marriage and family disputes. Non-contentious cases are also tired in ordinary courts. The ordinary courts in Germany are organized in local courts (Amtsgerichte), regional courts (Landgerichte), higher regional courts (Oberlandesgerichte) and the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof). Local and regional courts serve as first instance courts, while the higher regional courts and the Federal Court are appellate bodies.
The German specialized courts are divided into labor courts, social courts, administrative courts and financial courts. As their name state, German labor courts will rule in matters derived from the private law in employment disputes. Administrative courts will trial cases that fall under the jurisdiction of public administrative law. The social courts in Germany will rule in litigation cases coming social security matters. German financial courts are specialized in taxation matters.
The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) is the highest court in the German judicial system. It can rule in constitutional matters and it is known to have contributed to the development of the Federal Republic of Germany. The difference between the German Federal Constitutional Court and federal courts is that the Constitutional Court can be appealed to in civil or criminal matters only if constitutional rights have been breached, otherwise it cannot act as an appellate body in the judged case.
As Germany has a complex judiciary system, the courts can be constituted of one or seceral judges, helped by lay judges. Lay judges are usually German citizens employed by a committee for a determined amount of time. Judges are appointed depending on the gravity of the case and can vary from one judge in small offenses to up to three or even five judges and two lay judges. Lay judges are employed only in ordinary and specialized courts in Germany.
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