Skip to main content

Case law of European countries : Germany

Style of law reporting

Some general points:

The reports of the decisions of German law courts are different from both the French and the common law (Anglo-American) style.

Compared with the French style, they can contain more detail, more evidence of the argument - not just the legislation, but what academic writing or court cases were used as guidance.

Compared with the Anglo-American tradition, they are impersonal and more formally structured.: it is the decision of the court that is recorded, not the arguments of individual judges. Only the Federal Constitutional Court records dissenting judgments.

Please read the article by Markesinis "Judicial style and judicial reasoning in England and Germany" (2000) 59(2) Cambridge Law Journal 294. Cw UK 300 C20.

German court decisions (Entscheidungen)

As Germany belongs to the civil law tradition, case law is not considered a formal source of law: stare decisis is the exception (eg in the case of the decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court) rather than the norm.

German judges are not bound by precedent (Präjudizien), but, in pursuit of consistency, they are likely to consider previous decisions of the higher court(s).

German judges only interpret & apply the existing law to the facts before them.

Finding the decisions of German courts

Holders of an Oxford SSO have access to BeckOnline.

The law journal NJW-RR publishes civil/commercial law decisions. It is available via BeckOnline and in print in the Law Bod.

NJW-RR   Neue Juristische Wochenschrift-Rechtsprechungs-Report, Zivilrecht                         German 300 N25

It is now normal for the official websites of German courts to offer searchable databases of their decisions - free, at least for non-commercial use. These collections are likely to be of 21st century decisions.

It will be harder to find translations of decisions into English. These web sites have small collections of "leading" cases


Printed Resources

  Semi-Official Series  
BVerfGE Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts German 100 E90
BAGE Entscheidungen des Bundesarbeitsgerichts German 100 E70
BVerwGE Entscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts German 100 E100
BSGE Entscheidungen des Bundessozialgerichts German 100 E80
BGHZ Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen German 100 E61d
BGHSt Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen German 100 E61g

The law journal below publishes civil/commercial law decisions. It can be the quickest way to find recent decisions in print.

NJW-RR   NJW-Rechtsprechungs-Report, Zivilrecht                         German 300 N25