Court structure in the Federal Republic of Germany
Separation of powers
In accordance with the principle of separation of powers, state power is exercised by special legislative, executive and judiciary bodies in accordance with Article 20(2) of the Basic Law. The importance of the principle of separation of powers lies in the political distribution of power, the interlocking and mutual control of the three powers and the resulting restraint of state rule.
Federal Constitutional Court and supreme courts of the Federation
All citizens whose rights are infringed by a public authority may appeal to the judiciary under Article 19(4) of the Basic Law. Under Article 92 of the Basic Law, jurisdiction is exercised by the Federal Constitutional Court (in Karlsruhe), by the federal courts provided for in the Basic Law and by the courts of the Länder. According to Article 95(1) of the Basic Law, there are five supreme courts established by the Federation:
- Federal Court of Justice (Karlsruhe),
- Federal Administrative Court (Leipzig),
- Federal Fiscal Court (Munich),
- Federal Labour Court (Erfurt),
- Federal Social Court (Kassel).
They are the last instance responsible for the interpretation and application of so-called simple law - in contrast to constitutional law, on which the Federal Constitutional Court makes binding decisions.
Jurisdiction for administrative disputes
Administrative jurisdiction - the exercise of judicial power in public law disputes of a non-constitutional nature - is subdivided in the Federal Republic of Germany. It is administered by the (general) administrative courts, the social courts and the fiscal courts. General administrative jurisdiction is exercised by the administrative courts with the Federal Administrative Court as the last instance, social jurisdiction by the social courts with the Federal Social Court as the last instance and fiscal jurisdiction by the fiscal courts with the Federal Fiscal Court as the last instance.
Position of the Federal Constitutional Court
The Federal Constitutional Court - unlike the Supreme Court in the USA, for example - is not an additional court of appeal on legal remedies. In the review of judicial decisions based on constitutional complaints, it is neither the supreme arbiter of facts nor of appeals. Rather, its competence is limited solely to verify whether the judicial decisions or the laws on which they are based comply with constitutional law.