Munich / Berlin (dpa) – Germany’s highest tax court is suffering from staff shortages due to unresolved political strife. At the Federal Tax Court in Munich, four of the eleven presiding judges, including the president and the vice president, are missing.
And this despite the fact that the juries selection committee in Berlin had chosen a female judge and three judges to succeed the retired post carrier in early October. However, not all four have been appointed by the Federal President yet, and they cannot take up their positions before that. “There are currently no nominations to the Federal Tax Court,” a spokesman for the Federal President’s Office in Berlin said on request. “The Federal Department of Justice and Consumer Protection is responsible for preparing the relevant designation certificates.”
According to the ministry, the selection decisions are currently being prepared. “As this is an ongoing selection process, I ask for your understanding that we cannot comment on the details,” said a spokeswoman.
The Federal Tax Court has been without a leader for months. President Rudolf Mellinghoff had retired in the summer, his deputy Christine Meßbacher-Hönsch in the fall. In the background, the judges fear that the grand coalition wants to put politically acceptable candidates in leadership positions and that professional suitability must be put in the background.
So far, the requirement profile agreed by the ministry and federal courts in 2016 stipulated that presiding judges would have had to work in the respective federal court for a number of years before being appointed. Justice Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) rejected this past summer.
However, the presidents of the federal courts do not want to accept that professional qualifications should be less important in the future. The question has not yet been resolved and talks between the minister and the presidents will continue this year.
But discussions are currently on hold due to the Corona crisis. “A new date has not yet been set due to the current pandemic,” said the Justice Department spokeswoman. Lambrecht is running out of time, as the Bundestag is re-elected and a new government is formed in the fall.
According to reports, the coalition had agreed on two candidates for the presidency of the Federal Tax Court, both of whom have never worked in a federal court and therefore fell short of the requirements agreed in 2016. Mellinghoff’s successor as BFH president should therefore be Hans-Josef Thesling, an official close to the CDU at the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of Finance, formerly head of the financial court in Düsseldorf.
And Anke Morsch, currently President of the Saarland Financial Court and former Secretary of State for the SPD, is being selected for the position of Vice President. There is no official confirmation. However, both were elected judges at the BFH at the jury’s selection committee meeting in October.
The vacancies in the top four senates are of course palpable at the Federal Tax Court. “This of course leads to significant additional burdens,” said Matthias Loose, deputy chairman of the judges association at the BFH. “All colleagues are doing their best for the benefit of those seeking legal advice to bear the extra burden.”
In total, last year’s selection committee elected seventeen new federal judges – ten for the Federal Court of Justice, three for the Federal Administrative Court in Leipzig and four for the Federal Tax Court in Munich.
Of course there are only problems at the BFH, of which the executive committee must be filled. “So far, ten judges have been appointed to the BGH and three judges to the BVerwG,” said the Federal President’s office – therefore only the four selected to the federal tax court are missing. The Justice Department presents it a little differently: nine have already been appointed, “the appointment of another four federal judges at the entrance is foreseen for February 1 and April 1,” said Lambrecht’s house response.
In any case, it is clear that the other two federal courts are not suffering from similar turbulence – there was no new appointment in the Praesidia. “There are no vacant chairs at the Federal Court of Justice,” said a spokeswoman for the BGH. “The court posts that have become vacant since the July elections have all been immediately filled with the newly elected judges.”