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Brief research guide to key resources on the law of Germany. German legal research.

Courts and Case Reports

Case law precedence does not exist formally in Germany. Cases do have binding authority over the parties, but not on future cases. Cases do, however, have persuasive value and lower court judges are aware of higher court decisions.  

The judicial structure consists of both Federal and state courts.  The Organization of the Courts Act (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz, cited GVG) is the principal piece of legislation for the courts.  Also translated as the Judicature Act and the Constitution of the Courts Act.  The main duty of the Federal courts (Bundesgerichte) is to act as the final appeals court for the state courts and to ensure the uniform interpretation and development of law in Germany. The courts of first instance handle state law questions.  There are also specialized courts: administrative, labor, social and finance.

Cases are not published by the government or even recognized by statute.  The courts release for publication those decisions that are deemed important.  The only truly official publication are certain judgments of the Federal Constitutional Court, published in the Bundesgesetzblatt. To find publications of German case law, search MNCAT or WorldCat using this subject: germany law reports digests etc.

Because of the tremendous volume of German jurisprudence, privately published law journals are a valuable source for decisions.  Some of the more important journals are listed below. Each journal has some sort of subject or chronological index of decisions and an index of statutes construed.

Generally, English translations of German cases are not available although a limited number of English translated judgments are available on the following websites:

German Case Law - English Translations

German Case Law - English Translations Online

Federal Constitutional Court = Bundesverfassungsgericht

The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has jurisdiction over constitutional disputes between states and the Federal government and over disputes among the Federal Constitutional organs in matters of basic rights.  This court also has jurisdiction over disputes concerning constitutionality of laws.

Federal Supreme Court

Cases of the Federal Supreme Court, (Bundesgerichtshofes), are published in two series, civil and criminal. Every 10 volumes contains a cumulative index and there is a topical index to decisions, an alphabetical subject  index, and an index to the statutes construed.

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