Munich / Berlin (dpa) – There is resistance in federal courts to Federal Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) plans to fill senior judicial positions in Germany.
The cause is the dispute over the overdue replacement of the presidium at the Federal Finance Court (BFH) in Munich. The judges association at the BFH accuses the SPD politician of neglecting legal qualifications and jeopardizing the functionality of the judiciary. Lambrecht opposes it.
The presidents of the federal courts are now making it clear in a joint statement that they do not want to waive professional suitability under any circumstances. In their statement, the presidents do not comment on the influence of party politics, but that is really the point.
“Federal judicial experience over a longer period of time is an indispensable condition for accepting suitability and qualification for a promotion position in a federal court,” said the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe upon request and in conjunction with the other federal courts.
Lambrecht wants to discuss the matter with the presidents this Friday. So far, the “requirements profile” agreed with federal courts in 2016 stipulates that presiding judges must, as a general rule, have spent several years in the respective federal court before being appointed.
“This agreement only says that this is usually the case,” defends Lambrecht. “And when the lawyer speaks of ‘as a rule’, there are also exceptions.”
In addition to the BGH and BFH, the federal courts involved are the Federal Administrative Court, the Federal Labor Court, and the Federal Social Court.
Right now, the federal tax court is practically leaderless, which is also unusual. The previous president Rudolf Mellinghoff and his deputy retired without the grand coalition having clarified the successor in time.
According to reports, two lawyers who have never worked in a federal court are scheduled to be the head of the BFH: Hans-Josef Thesling, an official close to the CDU at the North Rhine-Westphalian Treasury, formerly head of the financial court in Düsseldorf, would become president.
Anke Morsch, currently President of the Saarland Financial Court and former Secretary of State of the SPD, is being selected for the position of Vice President. There is no confirmation. However, both were recently elected judges at the BFH, a prerequisite for further promotions.
Before their meeting with Lambrecht, the presidents refer to the legal principle that should apply when fulfilling public offices: “In this conversation, the presidents want to explain their position based on the principle of best selection, among other things,” said the joint statement. . They do not want to anticipate the conversation with Lambrecht.
The best selection is based on Article 33 of the Basic Law and means that in the performance of public office it must be based on competence and performance. Yet party politics has always played a very important role in the selection of presidents. Stephan Harbarth was an attorney and CDU politician, but never a judge – until he became vice president of the Federal Constitutional Court in late 2018 and was promoted to president in June 2020.
There is great unrest at the Federal Tax Court, following a letter from the Federal Ministry of Justice of which the judges were aware in September.
“The criterion that only those who have previously proven themselves as an accountant can become chairman should be dropped in the future,” said Matthias Loose, deputy chairman of the jury. “This change came as a complete surprise and took place without any consultation with the presidents of the federal courts.”
From the standpoint of the judges’ association, there is “no reason to forgo previous probation as an auditor in the performance of these functions,” as Loose says. “Otherwise, the functionality and reputation of the court would be compromised.” And further: “It is to be feared that criteria other than professional competence and probation as an auditor may be decisive for the fulfillment of the position.”
One point critics made even before Harbarth was elected president of the Federal Constitutional Court: If politicians and politically acceptable officials are elected federal judges, sooner or later they will decide on the legality of the regulations they helped create.
The Minister of Justice defends himself against the charge that professional qualifications are being put on the back burner: “Judges elected to this year’s electoral committee for the Federal Tax Court have years of experience in financial jurisdiction and fully meet the requirements to serve as judges. be at the Federal Tax Court “says Lambrecht. That was confirmed by the presidential council of the federal tax court.
“I doubt whether the most important criterion can really be that you have been with this one dish for five years,” explains Lambrecht. “Whether it is – in addition to the pre-existing judicial experience in the relevant specialized field of law – that it is also important that, if you hold a managerial position, you already have experience in human resources management, in budgetary matters and in managing a larger administration.”
“You can certainly speak of more diversity when fulfilling management positions, but then the criteria must be transparent”, asks Bundestag member Manuela Rottmann (Greens).
The legal politician says that there really should be a best analysis when filling management positions. “But the political component is increasingly important.”