The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht)

The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest German court. It exists since 1951 and has its seat in Karlsruhe. Due to the many responsibilities that are given to it in the Basic Law, it is a constitutional body of its own.

The Federal Constitutional Court consists of two senates of eight judges each, which in principle decide independently of each other. The first senate is primarily responsible for constitutional complaints, the second senate for state-organizational disputes, for example between the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Since the first senate would be much more busy with this distribution of cases, the second senate is also assigned various constitutional complaints for decision.

Most decisions are no longer made by the entire senate, but by the so-called “chambers” with only three of the eight judges sitting. The chambers may refuse to accept constitutional complaints or, if manifestly justified, let them directly succeed. Within the chamber, in turn, a specific judge (“rapporteur”) is in charge of the decision. He is assisted by the so-called scientific assistants, who – in contrast to their inconspicuous official title – are mostly experienced judges and absolute specialists in constitutional law.

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