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Features - Legal Research in Germany at the Crossroads of Traditional and Electronic Media: An Overview

By Rita Exter and Martina Kammer, Published on July 2, 2001

Rita Exter is a senior librarian at the law firm of Linklaters Oppenhoff & Rädler. She holds the German equivalent of a master’s degree in library science from the Fachhochschule für Bibliotheks- und Dokumentationswesen Köln (Cologne School of Library Science and Records Management) and looks back at thirteen years‘ experience in German legal research.

Martina Kammer is an information manager at the same law firm. She holds master’s degrees in translating and interpreting from Leipzig University and in library and information science (MLIS) from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science of Long Island University, New York.


Table of Contents

1. General Introduction to the German Legal System
2. The Legislative Process and Its Sources
2.1 Federal Legislative Process
2.2 The State Legislative Process
3. Federal and State Law
3.1 Federal Statutes and Executive Orders
3.2 International and EU Law
3.3 State Laws and Subordinate Legislation
3.4 Federal Administrative Rules and Regulations
3.5 State Administrative Rules and Regulations
4. Court Practice and Court Decisions
5. Legal Literature
5.1 Commentaries
5.2 Handbooks
5.3 Form Books and Standard Contracts
5.4 Legal Journals, Essays and Article Literature
5.5 Major Law Dictionaries
6. Citations to German Legal Sources
7. Translations of German Legal Resources into English
8. Useful Links
8.1 Government
8.2 Courts
8.3 Major Legal Publishers
8.4 University and Central Libraries
8.5 Legal Internet Projects
8.6 Major Professional Organizations
9. Overview of Fee-based Databases
10. Select Sources on Legal Research in German Law

Starting with a brief introduction to the German legal system and the German legal tradition, this article looks at legal research from a practitioner's point of view and provides an overview of the major sources for German law research, including the emerging Web resources available to the legal researcher. As the wealth of German legal literature on the market does not permit a comprehensive portrayal within the limits of this article, the selection of print and online sources presented here does not make any claim to completeness. Understandably, most of the material mentioned will be in German, as any substantive German law research will have to be conducted in the vernacular. To assist the foreign researcher, references have been included to translations of German laws and cases as well as literature on German law in English. This article will dwell on typical German resources for legal research such as Kommentare (commentaries) and Festschriften, but also on the way German case law is published and related issues, and the availability of legal databases and their growing significance to legal research. It will become clear that, despite the multitude of sources available, there is not always consistence in the way materials are published, and the researcher will sometimes find it difficult to locate certain items, notably when it comes to court decisions or administrative regulations.

The increasing amount of legal information offered via the World Wide Web does not, in any way, diminish the importance of print sources, which continue to be central to legal research in Germany. But as quite a few of these lack speed in updating, it complements them in a useful way. Caution should be exercised though as far as their origin, updating and completeness is concerned.

Unlike jurisdictions such as the US, full-text legal databases are not as readily available, and the federal and state governments have taken far longer to put information, including legal materials, on the Internet. There are now some government Internet projects, but in most cases such projects are undertaken by commercial vendors and publishers and are, therefore, fee-based.

1. General Introduction to the German Legal System

Germany has a federal system of government built on democratic principles, which is made up of 16 Laender (federal states). It is a member state of the European Union, the association of a number of European states. Under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany, which is known as the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) and lies at the foundation of all other legislation, the highest legislative bodies are the Bundestag and the Bundesrat as the two chambers of parliament. The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest body of the judiciary, and the Federal President and the Federal Government are the highest bodies of the state executive. This structure is mirrored at the level of the Laender with state parliaments, the state constitutional courts, and state governors and governments.

German law is governed by the federal nature of the Federal Republic of Germany and is thus not dissimilar to legal systems such as the ones in the United States or Australia. However, in contrast to these jurisdictions, the federal principle is not confined to national borders, i.e. the relations among the individual Laender and their relations towards the Federation. It extends to, and is crucially influenced by, Germany’s membership of the European Union, which by now affords an extensive body of legislation that is binding on its individual member states directly or needs to be implemented in national law. There are basic treaties, regulations and directives. Bilateral and multilateral agreements between EU member states are now mostly replaced by EU treaties.

Germany is a civil law jurisdiction. The law is divided into three major areas: private law, public law and criminal law.

The sources of the law in Germany comprise statutory law as the central and primary source which includes the constitution, statutes and executive orders, regulations, decrees and charters. Court decisions are another source. However, in contrast to jurisdictions such as the UK or the US, it does not have a precedent function in that courts are not bound to follow the decisions of higher courts in a previous case. Courts are bound by the law rather than by precedents. Custom is generally recognized to be yet another source of the law as are interpretations of the law.

The German legal tradition and culture go back to the law of the Roman Empire, which made a strong impact on its emergence and development. German law is codified law. The idea of codification dates back to the period of European Enlightenment during the 17th and 18th centuries and, propelled by the aspirations for unification during the 19th century, resulted in the creation of law codes for the major areas of the law.1 The development of the law in Germany must also be seen in the context of similar developments in other parts of continental Europe. There has always been strong mutual influence and exchange, which is now culminating in the rapprochement of legal systems as mentioned above.

Codification was first promoted by the enlightened rulers of Prussia and Austria (Prussia's Allgemeines Landesrecht of 1794 and Austria's Allgemeines Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) as a means for people to know their rights and duties. Another strong impetus emanated from the adoption in 1804 of the Code Napoleon.

By the time of the establishment of the German Reich in 1871 there were only two states, Prussia and Saxony, which had codified their private law. The other German territories were governed by different types of law from ius commune to Austrian and Danish law. With the beginning of industrialization and the need for open markets the unification of the law became an important issue. A draft of a general German commercial code had been adopted by most of the states in the Deutscher Bund (German Union) by 1866. Once the German Reich had been founded, the development of a uniform law code for the whole of Germany took on added importance. In the years following the founding of the German Reich a number of laws were adopted in 1879 that set the scene for a common civil code: The Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz (court statutes), Konkursordnung (insolvency code), Zivilprozessordnung (code of civil procedure), and the Strafprozessordnung (code of criminal procedure), which have, with some amendments, retained their validity to date. With a procedural framework in place, work on a uniform civil code was begun, which was to take 26 years from the initial drafting until it took force on January 1, 1900. The Commercial Code came into force on the same date. The Civil Code, which comprehensively covers the field of private law, is the mainstay of the German civil-law system. The result of fine 19th century scholarship, it is written in a highly technical language and thus not easily accessible. It has been lauded for its doctrinal refinement and conceptual abstraction that leaves room for interpretation, but is not addressed to the lay person. A century after its adoption its stipulations are still largely the same, the most significant amendments having been made to the book on family law, which has seen major change.2

Nazi rule during the period from 1933 through 1945 has left deep imprints on the development of the law in Germany after World War II. Legislative thinking has been guided by the idea of preventing any such catastrophe from ever happening again.

Another important aspect to be considered is the reunification on October 3, 1990 of the Federal Republic of Germany and the former German Democratic Republic. The legal systems had completely grown apart during the years of division. In the past ten years a legal system modeled on the one in the old Federal Republic has been set up in the eastern part of Germany as well. Under the Unification Treaty, certain parts of East German law have continued to retain their validity. Additional laws and regulations had to be enacted in various different fields of law to cover the specific situation that had arisen out of the joining of two completely different systems.

Select Literature:

  • Danner, Richard A./Bernal, Marie-Louise H. Introduction to Foreign Legal Systems. New York: Oceana Publications, 1994.
  • Ebke, Werner F./Finkin, Matthew W. Introduction to German Law. The Hague: Kluwer, 1996.
  • Foster, Nigel G. German Law and Legal System. London: Blackstone, 1993.
  • Modern Legal Systems Encyclopedia. Volume Three. Buffalo, NY: William S. Hein & Co., 1990.
  • Reynolds, Thomas H./Flores, Arturo A. Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. Volume II - Western and Eastern Europe. Littleton: F.B. Rothman, 1989-.
  • Robbers, Gerhard. An Introduction to German Law. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1998.
  • Robbers, Gerhard. Einführung in das deutsche Recht. 2nd edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1998.

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2. The Legislative Process and Its Sources

2.1 Federal Legislative Process and Session Laws

The federal legislative process may involve any of the following bodies: The Bundestag (German parliament) as the elected representative body of the people, the Bundesrat as the representative body of the Laender, the federal government and the parliamentary committees. The legislative initiative may emanate from the government, members of Parliament (a parliamentary group, party or other group) or the Bundesrat. There is legislation that requires approval from the Bundesrat, e.g., legislation amending the Constitution or touching on the foundations of the federation, and there is simple legislation that does not require such Bundesrat approval. Once a bill has been passed, it is countersigned by the government minister in charge and the Federal Chancellor, executed by the Federal President and promulgated in the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette). Unless otherwise stipulated, it will enter into force on the 14th day after publication in the Federal Law Gazette. Executive orders are passed by the Executive, i.e. the federal government or federal ministers. Bundesrat approval is required if they affect the interests of the Laender. The legislative procedure on the federal level is explained in detail on the Web site of the German Bundestag.

Documents that are produced and published as part of the legislative process do not only comprise the texts of prospective new laws or statutory amendments. They also include the reasoning of the respective body initiating such legislation, which may be used as a source for construing the future law.

In the past, important preliminary draft bills were accessible to a wider interested public only in paper form by placing a request with the respective government ministry. Major legislative projects were also published in journals. Recently, they have begun to be published on the home pages of the government ministries in charge of the legislative project or can be accessed through the home page of the German Federal Ministry of Justice under Gesetzgebungsvorhaben (legislative projects).

The official legislative process is triggered by a bill being submitted by either the Bundesrat, the Federal Government or a parliamentary group within the Bundestag. This process, i.e. the passage of the bill through all chambers of parliament, is comprehensively documented. The full text of draft bills, complete with reasoning, and amendments proposed by the parliamentary committees are published in Bundestags-Drucksache or Bundesrats-Drucksache (Printed Matters of the Bundestag and Bundesrat), a serial publication of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, respectively. The debates of bills in the Bundestag and Bundesrat are recorded in the minutes of plenary sessions (Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundestages and Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundesrates, also called Plenarprotokolle). These sources are indexed in the Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestags und des Bundesrats (Index to the Sessions of the German Bundestag and Bundesrat), which has been published by the German Parliament (department of documentation) since 1949 and appears as a bound set (and in microfiche format) at the end of each parliamentary term. Information on the current parliamentary term can be accessed through Stand der Gesetzgebung des Bundes (State of Federal Legislation), a looseleaf service published by Nomos Publishers; materials of previous parliamentary terms (starting from 1972) are published in bound sets by the same publisher.

Much of this information is now available on the Internet through DIP (short for Dokumentations- und Informationssystem für Parlamentarische Vorgänge – Documentation and Information System for Parliamentary Activities) [http://dip.bundestag.de/], a gateway to parliamentary information initiated by the German Bundestag. It provides free online access to legislative materials, the full text of draft bills as published in the Bundestags-Drucksachen, minutes of plenary sessions, activities of members of the Bundestag and Bundesrat, and information on parliamentary activities starting from the 8th parliamentary term (i.e. late 1976). The most important database for the legal researcher which can be accessed through this gateway is GESTA (short for Gesetzgebungsstand – state of legislative projects). It holds the full text of bills and any other documents of the legislative history, with full texts of parliamentary printed matter, and links to the full text of Part I of the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette) starting from 1998. GESTA also provides information on initiatives, when approval is required by the Bundesrat or, if applicable, EU Directives need to be implemented by a particular law. Its materials are indexed by both formal criteria and content. The full text of legislative materials starting from the 13th and 14th parliamentary terms (i.e. from late 1994) can be obtained from PARFORS, the document server of the Bundestag, which can be accessed through DIP as well. They are indexed by formal criteria such as date and document number. Alternatively, there is the parliamentary database Parlamentsspiegel, an initiative launched by the 16 German state parliaments which covers the federal materials published in the Bundestags- and Bundesrats-Drucksachen for approximately the same period as DIP as well as legislative materials of the Laender (see below at 2.2). Minutes of plenary sessions of the Bundesrat are available from as early as the 1st parliamentary term. DIP provides access to some of the full text data from Parlamentsspiegel by linking to that information.

Inquiries regarding information on federal legislative material not published in DIP or Parlamentsspiegel (up to the 7th parliamentary term in 1976) can be directed to Sach-und Sprechregister des Deutschen Bundestages, the official documentation center of the German Parliament (phone #: 030-227 3 23 50/E-mail: infoline.wd5@bundestag.de), and print material can be ordered from the document service of the Bonn-based official parliamentary and government publisher Bundesanzeiger Verlag.

2.2 The State Legislative Process

The documents created as part of the legislative process at state level are published in print format. Some state parliaments (Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Brandenburg, North-Rhine Westphalia, Saxony, and others) have started to make such materials accessible through their home pages (links to Laender governments and parliaments via http://www.bundesrat.de/Laender/index.html). However, most of these are limited in scope, content and indexing. Given this situation, all the more important is the Parlamentsspiegel [http://www.parlamentsspiegel.de], the database project of all 16 German Laender whose goal is to build an integrated parliamentary information system. The Internet version was launched in 2000. It is based on the Parlamentsspiegel print version (1957-1994/95) which has been discontinued. The state parliament of North-Rhine Westphalia will continue to publish a CD-ROM version though. Currently, the scope of the Internet database is still limited to a selection of major state parliamentary materials. But it also contains a large number of federal materials, as well as selected EU materials pertaining to German federal law, and there are plans to gradually extend its scope to include all federal and state parliamentary materials. It therefore holds the promise of becoming one of the most interesting free research tools for legislative materials. At present its use is still impeded by considerable technical shortcomings and handling problems combined with gaps in the coverage of materials.

If state legislative materials cannot be found either on the Laender home pages or in the Parlamentsspiegel database, they will have to be obtained directly, usually for a fee, from the respective departments of the state parliaments.

Select Literature and Databases:

  • Bundestags-Drucksachen (BT-Dr. or BT-Drucks.). Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-
  • Bundesrats-Drucksachen (BR-Dr. or BR-Drucks.). Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-
  • Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundestags. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-
  • Stenographische Berichte des Deutschen Bundesrats. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-
  • Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestags. Bonn: Heger/Bundesanzeiger, 1949/1953-
  • Register zu den Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundesrats. Bonn: Heger/Bundesanzeiger, 1949/1952-
  • Stand der Gesetzgebung des Bundes. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1972-
  • DIP
  • Parlamentsspiegel
  • Bundesanzeiger

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3. Federal and State Law

Germany’s federal system is reflected in the law. Legislative power is shared between the Federation and the Laender. There is exclusive legislation by the Federation when it comes to legal issues that need to be regulated uniformly for all Laender, such as foreign affairs, defence, transportation, the legal protection of industrial property rights, copyright, post and telecommunications, etc. Concurrent legislation applies to fields of the law which, although uniform regulation for the federation is required, allow for state legislation as well. State legislation is repealed, however, if a respective federal law exists or is enacted (e.g., civil code, criminal law, business and labor law, certain aspects of tax law). Federal laws may be supplemented by state laws when additional legal issues need to be covered and require augmentation by state law. Framework legislation, i.e. general guiding directives, is provided by the federation for certain areas that will have to be fleshed out by state laws. This applies to higher education, the protection of nature and soil, the water balance, and urban planning.

Laws are adopted at federal and state levels in the course of the official legislative process described above. In addition, the body of statutory materials consists of executive orders (Rechtsverordnungen) which are issued on the basis of an enacted law by the Executive, i.e., the federal or Laender governments, and municipal orders and ordinances adopted by the local authorities. Further, there are administrative rules and regulations issued by the Executive, which serve to interpret the law. As far as the latter are concerned, we will consider for the purpose of this article generally applicable administrative regulations that are issued by federal or state authorities and require publication.

3.1 Federal Statutes and Executive Orders

The official source of Germany’s valid laws and of most subordinate legislation, or executive orders (Rechtsverordnungen), as well as crucial notices, is the Bundesgesetzblatt (Federal Law Gazette - BGBl. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger, 1949-) which is published by the Federal Ministry of Justice in two parts. New federal laws and major executive orders and amendments thereof have been published in Part I since 1949. New issues appear as required approximately 50 times per year. It is also available on CD-ROM, and, lately, as a complete read and print version along with various search tools has been accessible through the Web site of the commercial provider Makrolog at http://www.bgbl.makrolog.de under the heading „Recht für Deutschland“ (The Law for Germany). The full text of the last three years and research in earlier issues with results in citation format are available for free. The full text of legislation that goes back further than three years can be accessed on a pay-as-you-go basis or with a customer budget account or an annual subscription. All reported amendments of the law (also arranged by subject) can be obtained through a fee-based E-mail service at http://www.prompt.makrolog.de. Another fee-based version and a free read-only version are offered by Bundesanzeiger publishers.

Part II publishes the international agreements concluded by the Federal Republic of Germany and national laws and orders adopted for their validation and enforcement (also see 3.2 below). The text is usually provided in German and in the official languages of the agreement. Part II is also available online via http://www.bgbl.makrolog.de.

A discontinued Part III of the Bundesgesetzblatt, which was published in looseleaf format, contains a consolidated compilation of Germany’s federal laws as amended at the time of publication between 1958 and 1969. Because of the complicated legal situation that had arisen after World War II with laws from the German Reich still in force, and new laws and decrees enacted by the Allied Powers and, later, the German parliament, the German legislators decided to review German laws and repeal obsolete statutes. The beginning and end of this process were marked by the adoption of two laws (Gesetz über die Sammlung des Bundesrechts of July 10, 1958 and Gesetz über den Abschluß der Sammlung des Bundesrechts of December 28, 1968). This compilation is still useful today in researching older versions of the law.

Executive orders are also published in Bundesanzeiger (BAnz), a publication of the Federal Ministry of Justice.

Federal tax legislation is published in the Bundessteuerblatt (Federal Tax Gazette - BStBl, Stollfuss, 1951-; also on CD-ROM, 1992- with online updates), the official publication of the Federal Ministry of Finance. It appears in two parts: Part I includes federal tax laws as well as federal executive orders and administrative rules and regulations. Decisions of the Federal Tax Court (Bundesfinanzhof) are published in Part II. Makrolog now offers the full text of BStBl I and II from 2001.

Laws and executive orders prior to 1945 were mostly published in Reichsgesetzblatt and Reichsanzeiger, the predecessors to Bundesgesetzblatt and Bundesanzeiger, as well as a number of other publications. Parallel to the Bundesgesetzblatt, East Germany published the Gesetzblatt der DDR (Law Gazette of the German Democratic Republic) from 1949-1990. As some former East German laws are still valid, this source may be of some relevance as well.

Valid federal law is officially indexed in Fundstellennachweis A, which is an indispensable tool in accessing the statutory material of Bundesgesetzblatt I. It features a subject, keyword and abbreviations index and an index of valid laws of the German Democratic Republic and related federal law, with a separate keyword index. Fundstellennachweis A is published annually at the beginning of the year by the Federal Ministry of Justice with a mid-year supplement. For any classical federal law research using print sources Fundstellennachweis A will be the first "port of call." Alternatively, the Bundesgesetzblatt Gesamtregister (Comprehensive Index to the Federal Law Gazette), which was last published by C.H. Beck in 1990, indexes the valid law and, in addition, laws and executive orders that have gone out of force. By contrast, when laws are amended, the Fundstellennachweis indexes sources of the old versions for the last time in the year of amendment.

Fundstellennachweis B is the official index of Bundesgesetzblatt II (see below at 3.2).

While publishing amendments of the laws, Bundesgesetzblatt I does not usually provide consolidated or revised versions. The complete text of the new law as amended is only published in the event of landmark changes (e.g., anti-trust law as revised in 1998). For this reason, Bundesgesetzblatt I is not a convenient tool for practical work if a law has been amended multiple times.

Consolidated versions of the law (for a selection see below) are offered in a wide range of publications from various German legal publishers, which publish the German federal laws complete or by subject area. Many of these are also available electronically on CD-ROM or, for a fee, via the World Wide Web. Texts found in unofficial publications by commercial vendors should be checked for their currency against Bundesgesetzblatt I.

The foremost fee-based database of German federal law is Juris (also see chapter on databases below). It covers federal and state law, rules and regulations, EU law, case law, journal articles, press announcements on high court decisions, and specialized databases of asylum and environmental law, industrial bargaining agreements, and technology law. Federal laws are covered in full text, however, starting from different points in time. All versions of a law since that time are available in full text, including the texts of laws from the Reichsgesetzblatt and other official statutory publications prior to the establishment of the Federal Republic of Germany that are still in force. Juris also gives citations to much older texts. It perceives its mission as offering consolidated versions of laws as well as all previous versions, to the extent they have been documented. Its Bundesrecht (Federal Law) database feeds on information from the Federal Ministry of Justice and, in the field of tax, from the Federal Ministry of Finance. It holds valid federal laws based on Fundstellennachweis A as well as previous versions of federal laws and executive orders, including the laws and regulations of the former German Democratic Republic still in force. Citations to laws from former East Germany that are no longer valid can be accessed through the DDR-Vorschriften (GDR statutes and regulations) database.

The German Federal Government and Juris have now launched a joint project, Gesetze im Internet (Laws on the Internet), to put major laws which fall within the sphere of competence of federal ministries on the World Wide Web. They are offered as unofficial versions and can be accessed by subject, alphabetically and by ministry (the latter with a free-text search option).

Das Deutsche Bundesrecht by Nomos publishers is another fee-based commercial product accessible via the Internet (20 updates per year; annual subscription or chip account), which is also available as a looseleaf service (monthly updates) and on CD-ROM (four updates per year). It offers complete coverage of current federal laws (including laws of the former East Germany still in force), based on Bundesgesetzblatt I, and select executive orders.

Münster-based MBO Verlag publishers offer an extensive, though not complete, coverage of consolidated federal law on CD-ROM (updated 3-4 times per year) combined with extensive coverage of the state laws of the 16 Laender. Subscribers can access bi-weekly updates that cover more recent developments since the publication of the latest CD-ROM via www.pc-rechtsbibliothek.de.

Refact, another fee-based database which was launched in 1996, offers three million data records of federal and state laws as well as commentaries, cases, standard contracts, business and tax information, legislative developments, new legal publications and more.

C.H. Beck Verlag, one of Germany’s major legal publishers, has just launched a database of federal law, which is available for a fee. It includes the major commercial sources of administrative and labor law and, in addition, 800 more federal laws, executive orders and EU texts.

3.2 International and EU Law

For international treaties and agreements concluded by the Federal Republic of Germany to take effect nationally, a federal law needs to be enacted. The legislative process is recorded in the DIP, GESTA and Parlamentsspiegel databases mentioned above.

The official publication since 1951 for Germany’s international treaties is Bundesgesetzblatt Teil II (BGBl. II), which publishes both the international treaty or agreement and the related federal law (available from the Web at http://www.bgbl.makrolog.de). Parlamentsspiegel and Das deutsche Bundesrecht publish a selection, Juris does not publish international treaties at all.

The materials published in Bundesgesetzblatt II and its predecessor, i.e. Reichsgesetzblatt Teil II, are indexed in Fundstellennachweis B. It also provides an index of other signatory states. Other access tools include the Bundesgesetzblatt Gesamtregister (Comprehensive Index to the Federal Law Gazette) as well as a number of commercial looseleaf publications.

The laws of the European Union increasingly influence the national laws of all its member states. This applies to the Federal Republic of Germany as well, which was among the founding members in 1951. National laws in EU countries often implement EU directives, and it will therefore be necessary to check for applicable EU law. EU regulations apply directly. Without going into the details of EU law research, the major sources from a German perspective will be mentioned here.

EU treaties and their amendments, which constitute primary EU law, are published in the Official Journal Series L and in the Celex and EurLex databases, as are EU directives and regulations once they have been passed. For Germany, EU legislation of crucial import is also published in Bundesgesetzblatt II. Series C of the Official Journal publishes promulgations and drafts of directives and regulations as well as Commission documents. Both series appear in print and, for the past few years, in CD-ROM format (distributed in Germany by Bundesanzeiger Verlag). Issues of the Official Journal are available free of charge from EurLex for a 60-day period. The German version of the European Union law database CELEX is offered via Juris. Some of the major guidelines and regulations can be found in Parlamentsspiegel.

German print sources on EU law include the Handbuch des europäischen Rechts (European Law Handbook), a looseleaf service with monthly updates which covers EU treaties with comments, as well as communications, directives, and regulations. Sartorius II: Internationale Verträge und Europarecht includes EU treaties and other EU texts.

EU case law is available in full text from the web site of the European Court of Justice (since 1997) or via EurLex and the fee-based Celex database. The official print publication for EU cases is the Sammlung der Rechsprechung des Europäischen Gerichtshofs, which covers the decisions of the European Court of Justice since 1954. A number of commercial services are available as well.

3.3 State Laws and Subordinate Legislation

All German Laender publish enacted state laws and executive orders in state law gazettes and gazettes of executive orders (the old Laender starting from 1947 and the new Laender of the former East Germany since 1990). The publishing authority may vary from one state to another and may be the state parliament, the ministry of the interior or ministry of justice, or others. In addition, most of the Laender publish administrative gazettes with administrative rules and ordinances. Consolidated versions are available in looseleaf format or on CD-ROM.

Some of the Laender such as Bavaria, which existed before World War II, published law gazettes as early as then. The laws of such states were revised after the war as necessary. Compilations of revised laws were published by most German Laender in the 1950s to reflect the changes and amendments that had been made after World War II.

Commercial publishers put out consolidated compilations of state laws in looseleaf format. One of the major names to be mentioned here is C.H. Beck.

Major tools for accessing both federal and state legislation are Sommer, Karl/Oehmann,Werner, Gesetz-Weiser, a four-volume looseleaf service published by Forkel Verlag (with four cumulative updates per year) which lists federal and state laws starting from the beginning of the Federal Republic chronologically in four-year periods and, within these periods, indexes them by keywords with complete citations to official federal and state sources; and Schlegelberger, Franz/Friedrich,Walther, Das Recht der Gegenwart, a looseleaf service published by Vahlen which indexes state and federal laws by keyword (one complete update at the beginning of each year). The weekly Sammelblatt für Rechtsvorschriften des Bundes und der Laender, published in journal format since 1950 with semi-annual indexes, publishes the full-text of nearly all federal laws and major state laws and executive orders and references the complete tables of contents of the state law gazettes, Bundesgesetzblatt I and II, and the Bundesanzeiger.

Some of the Laender now make more recent law gazettes accessible via their state government web sites. Parlamentsspiegel offers a selection of all state law gazettes through one gateway and will gradually include the state statutory materials of all Laender. North-Rhine Westphalia is already included with its complete records. A database of the law and executive order gazettes of all Laender is being developed and will be made available as a read and print version in facsimile format via Makrolog in the course of 2001. The first issues from 2000 and 2001 have been available since the spring of 2001.

A few of the Laender have made available via the Internet, at times for a fee, the consolidated collections of their state laws:

Besides federal law, the laws and executive orders of a number of Laender are accessible through Nomos publisher's Bundesrecht (federal law) database (Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia) and through Juris (North-Rhine Westphalia, Saxony, Thuringia). MBO Verlag offers comprehensive statutory compilations of each of the 16 Laender on CD-ROM (also combined with federal law), which can be searched by title, keyword and other features. This product offers one of the most comprehensive, if not the most comprehensive, coverage of consolidated federal and state laws in one database. Unlike for federal laws, an Internet-accessible updating service for state laws is not yet available.

Official Gazettes of the Laws and Subordinate Legislation of the Laender in Print Format:

  • Gesetzblatt für Baden-Württemberg
  • Bayerisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für Berlin
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt Brandenburg
  • Gesetzblatt der Freien Hansestadt Bremen
  • Hamburgisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt des Landes Hessen
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  • Niedersächsisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Nordrhein-Westfalen
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Rheinland-Pfalz
  • Amtsblatt des Saarlandes
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt
  • Sächsisches Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für Schleswig-Holstein
  • Gesetz- und Verordnungsblatt für das Land Thüringen

3.4 Federal Administrative Rules and Regulations

Universally binding administrative rules and regulations are published in Bundesanzeiger, and in Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt (Joint Gazette of the Government Ministries), a publication of the Federal Ministry of the Interior. The latter has published since 1950 the federal administrative rules and regulations of various federal ministries. In addition, there are publications on certain areas of the law, such as the Bundesarbeitsblatt (Federal Labor Law Gazette) published by the Federal Ministry of Labor or the Bundessteuerblatt (Federal Tax Gazette) of the Federal Ministry of Finance.

Juris now offers the full text of administrative rules and regulations in the tax field (from 1978), and abstracts and citations of administrative rules and regulations for labor law (since 1986) and social welfare law (since 1954). The inclusion of all administrative rules and regulations is scheduled to be completed by 2001. This will tremendously facilitate legal research in this field, all the more so because they are to be cross-referenced with statutory laws and major court decisions.

Finding administrative rules and regulations outside of the Juris databases can be very tedious. One may have to fall back on statutory compilations and commentaries, which often provide footnote references to the relevant administrative rules.

3.5 State Administrative Rules and Regulations

The administrative rules and regulations of the Laender are published in print form in official gazettes. They are also available via Juris. However, as with federal rules and regulations, completeness is a problem. Some of the Laender are starting to put these materials on the Internet (e.g., Baden-Württemberg from 1999). As with federal rules and regulations, the legal researcher will frequently have to fall back on statutory compilations and commentaries to find references to such rules and regulations. Contacting the respective ministries of justice of the Laender may also be helpful in this context.

Select Literature and Databases:

Official Publications and Indexes of Federal Laws and Regulations:

  • Bundesgesetzblatt I and II. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949- (Part I available as annual CD-ROM edition since 1998, and Part II since 1999)
  • Fundstellennachweis. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1952-1968 (continued as separate indexes A and B from 1968, cf. below)
  • Fundstellennachweis A. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1968- (print and, since 1998, CD-ROM)
  • Fundstellennachweis B. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1968- (print)
  • Bundessteuerblatt I-II. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1951-
  • Bundesarbeitsblatt. Bonn: Kohlhammer, 1950-
  • Bundesanzeiger. Bonn: Bundesanzeiger Verlag, 1949-
  • Gemeinsames Ministerialblatt. Köln: Carl Heymanns, 1950 -
  • Reichsgesetzblatt. Berlin: [Various publishers],1871-1921/Reichsverlagsamt, 1922-1945 (published in Parts I and II since 1922)
  • Gesetzblatt der DDR. Deutscher Zentralverlag/Staatsverlag der DDR, 1949-1990.

Official Publications of State Laws and Regulations:

  • See official state gazettes above.

Major Consolidated Federal Law Publications:

  • All Federal Laws:
    Das Deutsche Bundesrecht. Systematische Sammlung der Gesetze und Verordnungen mit Erläuterungen. Baden-Baden: Nomos (34-volume looseleaf service with monthly updates (also online as a fee-based service at www.bundesrecht.de and on CD-ROM)
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law:
    Sartorius, Carl. Verfassungs- und Verwaltungsgesetze der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. München: C.H. Beck [Sartorius I] (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year)
  • Civil and Criminal Law:
    Schönfelder, Heinrich. Deutsche Gesetze. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year)
  • Tax Laws:
    Steuergesetze. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 3-5 updates per year)
    Steuerrichtlinien. C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, 2 updates per year)
  • Labor Law:
    Nipperdey, Hans C. Arbeitsrecht. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service, about 2 updates per year)
  • EU Law:
    Khan, Daniel-Erasmus (ed.). Internationale Verträge – Europarecht. München: C.H. Beck [Sartorius II] (looseleaf service with about 2 updates per year)
    Borries, Reimer von (ed.). Europäisches Wirtschaftsrecht. München: C.H. Beck (looseleaf service)
    Groeben, Hans von der (ed.). Handbuch des Europäischen Rechts. Baden-Baden: Nomos (31-volume looseleaf service with monthly updates)

Databases of Federal Law:

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4. Court Practice and Court Decisions

The fundamental legal provisions underlying court practice and adjudication in the Federal Republic of Germany can be found in Articles 92 and 93 of the Basic Law. The structure of the court system follows the federal principle with courts at the federal and at state levels.

A special position is held by the Federal Constitutional Court, which, as an organ of the constitution, is the highest German court and an independent court of the Federal Republic. It rules exclusively on constitutional issues. The Federal Constitutional Court is complemented by constitutional courts in the federal states.

(See the following two links to the law school of Saarbrücken University for information in English on the German Federal Constitutional Court and the duties and structure of the German Federal Courts.)

Besides the constitutional courts, there are the following major categories of jurisdiction: There is ordinary jurisdiction which falls into civil and criminal jurisdiction with local, regional and higher regional courts (Amtsgerichte, Landgerichte, Oberlandesgerichte) at the state level and the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice - BGH) as the highest court. Furthermore, there is administrative, fiscal, labor and social jurisdiction with courts at regional, higher regional, and federal levels. The regional and higher regional courts are, at the same time, courts of appeal of their respective states. There is a Joint Panel of the Highest Federal Courts which acts as a supreme body of jurisdiction across all court levels and jurisdictions and decides on issues of divergent adjudication by other courts. Its authority is, however, largely restricted and cannot be compared to that of a Supreme Court in other countries (as, for example, in the United States). Courts are divided into panels and divisions based on areas of law. Each case is assigned a case number that reflects the type of court, level of appeal, and subdivision. The case number and date are of great importance in citing and finding cases. When a court decision is published, it is preceded by a summary, comparable to headnotes, authored by judges, press departments with the courts, or the editorial board of the publishing journal. As a rule, the names of the parties involved are not mentioned.

Court decisions by the highest courts are most completely recorded in print format in various quasi-official reporters put together by the judges of the respective courts. They are published in the large legal publishing houses, unfortunately with much delay.

Legal journals are usually much faster in publishing court decisions. Some of them have specialized almost entirely in the publication of cases and publish decisions of regional and higher regional courts as well (e.g., NJW-Rechtsprechungs-Report, NZA-Rechtsprechungs-Report, NVWZ-Rechtsprechungs-Report). Many of them also appear on CD-ROM. Aside from quasi-official compilations, there are various commercial publications of court decisions, at both federal and state levels, most of them in looseleaf format, but also on CD-ROM, and focused on specific fields of law. The three major ones are listed below.

There are currently numerous initiatives by commercial publishers to set up databases of court decisions to be made accessible via the World Wide Web, either based on existing print versions or by cooperating with other providers. This market is currently undergoing fundamental changes.

Juris is the most established and oldest German database also when it comes to court reports. It currently holds some 500,000 decisions, about one third in full text. It covers almost completely the decisions of the highest federal courts of the past 15 years; older decisions are gradually being included. Juris case records are prepared at the federal courts. Lower courts are requested to report decisions to the federal courts’ documentation departments, which select the decisions to be included in the Juris database system. In addition, these departments evaluate 600 journals and compilations of court decisions. Juris also references case citations in essays and articles, and indexes discussions of decisions and judgments. Information regarding the documentation centers and a list of journals with scope of coverage evaluated for court decisions can be found at http://www.juris.de/angebot/index.htm.

Finding decisions is sometimes difficult even with Juris and the many CD-ROMs and database projects. Court decisions passed prior to the existence of the FRG, which may still be relevant today, cannot be found in any of the electronic products mentioned. The researcher will then depend on these older decisions being referred to in commentaries or other legal literature. Another problem is that Juris does not sufficiently cover a large portion of court decisions from the lower courts, or does not provide the full text of decisions. The only option then is to order these decisions directly from the courts. This requires the case number and date to be known.

Some of the courts offer an ordering service via their homepages (e.g., the Federal Court of Justice, the Federal Labor Court, the Federal Tax Court). Publishers sometimes provide the full text of decisions for a small fee. Some courts have started to make the full text of decisions accessible through their homepages, or are planning to do so in the near future (e.g., the Federal Court of Justice starting from mid-2001). Some courts such as the Federal Court of Justice and the Federal Labor Court have established a subscription service and, for a fee, mail out all their decisions in print or on disk. The names of the parties in a case are usually removed before mailing or posting on the Internet.

Select Literature and Databases:

Case Reporters of the Highest Courts:

  • Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgerichts. BVerfGE. Tübingen: Mohr, 1952-
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen. BGHZ. Köln: Heymanns, 1951-. (Prior to 1945: Entscheidungen des Reichsgerichts in Zivilsachen. RGZ. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1880-1945.)
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen. BGHSt. Köln: Heymanns, 1951-. (Prior to 1945: Entscheidungen des Reichsgerichts in Strafsachen. RGSt. Berlin: Veith & Comp./de Gruyter, 1880-1944.)
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. BVerwGE. Köln: Heymanns, 1958-.
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesarbeitsgerichts. BAGE. Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft, 1955-
  • Entscheidungen des Bundessozialgerichts. BSGE. Köln: Heymanns, 1956-
  • Sammlung der Entscheidungen des Bundesfinanzhofs. BFHE. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1952- (Prior to 1945: Sammlung der Entscheidungen und Gutachten des Reichsfinanzhofs. Bonn: Stollfuss, 1920-1952.)

Case Reporters of Higher Regional Courts

  • Entscheidungen der Oberlandesgerichte in Zivilsachen. OLGZ. München: Beck, 1965-1995. Continued by Praxis der Freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit (FGPrax). München: Beck, 1995-
  • Entscheidungen der Oberverwaltungsgerichte Münster und Lüneburg. OVGE. Münster: Aschendorff, 1949-
  • Entscheidungen des Oberverwaltungsgerichts Berlin. OVGE Bln. Heymanns, 1954-
  • Entscheidungen des Bayerischen Obersten Landesgerichts in Zivilsachen. BayObLGZ. München: Oldenbourg, Neue Folge (new series) 1950/51-
  • Entscheidungen des Bayerischen Obersten Landesgerichts in Strafsachen. BayObLGSt. München: Oldenbourg, Neue Folge (new series) 1950/51-
  • OLG Report. OLGR. Köln: Otto Schmidt, [different starting dates depending on the court]. A journal issued by region, which publishes decisions of the higher regional court of Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamm, Köln, Berlin, Bayerisches Oberlandesgericht, München/Bamberg/Nürnberg, Bremen/Hamburg/Schleswig, Celle/Braunschweig/Oldenburg, Koblenz/Saarbrücken/Zweibrücken, Karlsruhe/Stuttgart, Brandenburg/Dresden/Jena/Naumburg/Rostock. (Also available on CD-ROM published once a year.) Its free Web site www.olg-report.de publishes the headnotes of the most recent higher regional court decisions by field of law.

Major Commercial Case Reporters:

  • Federal Court of Justice Cases
    Lindenmaier, Fritz/Möhring Philipp (founders). Nachschlagewerk des Bundesgerichtshofs. LM. München: C.H. Beck, 1961- [various bound short editions and looseleaf series starting from 1961]
  • Federal Labor Court Cases
    Nipperdey, Hans Carl/Hueck, Alfred (founders). Nachschlagewerk des Bundesarbeitsgerichts. - Arbeitsrechtliche Praxis. AP. München: Beck, 1954- [in various bound short editions and looseleaf series starting from 1954]
  • Federal Administrative Court Cases
    Buchholz, Karl (Hrsg.). Sammlung- und Nachschlagewerk der Rechtsprechung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts. Köln: Carl Heymanns, 1957- [looseleaf service in various series starting from 1957]

Case Databases:

  • Juris database - fee-based service
  • Deutsche Rechtsprechung (Verlag Recht und Praxis) offers over 110,000 cases in full text across all levels of jurisdiction. Free search and display of the first 200 characters of the headnotes. Full text available for a fee of DM 11.60 per case.
  • Unabridged text of decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court in German starting January 1, 1998 from the Court’s homepage searchable by subject, case number and date - free service
  • English abstracts of decisions of the German Federal Constitutional Court 1993-1998 of particular international interest via the Web site of the Law-Related Internet Project of Saarbrücken University - free service
  • Federal Court of Justice (BGH) decisions in civil matters from January 1, 1999 via RWS publishers - free service
  • Published Federal Tax Court (BFH) decision from November 30, 2000 from the court's home page - free service
  • Anti-trust law decisions (pdf format) 1998/99 to date from the Web site of the Federal Cartel Office - free service
  • North Rhine Westphalia is planning to put on the Internet decisions of courts at all levels, searchable by subject, case number and date of decision. See info at http://www.olg-koeln.nrw.de/home/recht/intro.htm.
  • Case database of the WDR public television station with over 1,900 recent court decisions arranged by fields of law - free service
  • Cases via jura-lotse.de with links to a large number of case databases on the Internet arranged by type of court, field of law, case reporters, and other search criteria - free service
  • www.metalaw.de, a search engine for court decisions with links to well over 100 case law sites, court directories, legal journals, and press information - free service
  • caselaw.de, a case database still under construction which is currently holding about 6,000 cases and is searchable by type of document, citation, free text, type of court - free service

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5. Legal Literature

German law and its development is documented by a wealth of legal literature. Commentaries, handbooks, textbooks, journals and dictionaries are often the first tools used by the legal researcher to obtain an overview of the field or to find leads to laws and cases. Brief descriptions and lists of some of the major ones will be given below.

5.1 Commentaries (Kommentare)

This typical genre of German legal literature is central to practice-oriented legal research and often the source to which the legal researcher turns first. It provides commentary section by section on a particular law with extensive footnoting and references to cases and court decisions, articles, monographs and other legal literature. The text of the law is usually included as well. By explaining and interpreting the text of statutes and linking to relevant cases and court decisions, commentaries link together two major sources of law. There are commentaries for both federal and state laws, however, by far not for all of them. In such cases one needs to examine if and to what extent such laws are considered in other commentaries. Ideally, commentaries, aside from pointing to cases, including those not otherwise published in databases or case reporters, also make reference to subordinate legislation, administrative rules and regulations and legislative materials as well as applicable EU legislation pertaining to the law they are annotating. They are often known by the names of their authors, rather than by their actual titles, for example Palandt as the major short commentary on the German Civil Code (Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch) or Baumbach/Hueck, the commentary on the German Commercial Code (Handelsgesetzbuch).

Commentaries appear in two major formats: Kurzkommentare (hand commentaries) and Grosskommentare (large commentaries). Published as single-volume sets, hand commentaries are strongly geared to practice needs and are re-edited more frequently. They are much more current than the multi-volume large commentaries which may take up to a decade to be published in their entirety. Some of the major hand commentaries are re-edited regularly, such as Palandt which appears each year in December (with major amendments recently being downloadable from the homepage of the publisher, C.H. Beck). Unfortunately, commentaries are not re-edited with the same regularity in all fields of law. Even hand commentaries may take years to be updated. This is because frequent changes in the law make it very difficult to keep commentaries up to date. Some publishers take account of this situation by publishing an increasing number of commentaries in looseleaf format.

There is also a trend towards online publishing of commentaries: Westlaw is planning to enter the market with a full-text publication of Staudinger, Grosskommentar zum BGB, the most extensive commentary on the German Civil Code and the major large commentary in Germany. Beck-online and Legios, a legal database project launched by Carl Heymanns, Otto Schmidt and Handelsblatt publishers, are both planning to put commentaries online.

Selection of Major Commentaries:

Basic Law

  • Maunz, Theodor/Dürig, Günter: Grundgesetz. Kommentar. München: Beck (five-volume looseleaf service).

Civil Code

  • Münchener Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch. 4th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000 (published since the late 1970s; each edition completed after 3-4 years; appears now in 11 volumes with an additional looseleaf volume for current developments).
  • Palandt, Otto. Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch. 60th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001 (new edition published yearly in December).
  • Staudinger, J. von. Kommentar zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuch mit Einführungsgesetz und Nebengesetzen. 13th edition. Berlin: Sellier / de Gruyter, 1993- (the most comprehensive commentary on the Civil Code; high scholarly value; appears in bound individual volumes: revised edition has simultaneously been published since 1998).

Code of Civil Procedure

  • Baumbach, Adolf/Lauterbach, Wolfgang. Zivilprozessordnung. 59th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001 (new edition published every year).
  • Lüke, G./Walchshöfer, A. (eds). Münchener Kommentar zur Zivilprozessordnung. 2nd edition. München: Beck, 2000- (3 volumes).
  • Stein, Friedrich/Jonas (founders). Martin. Kommentar zur Zivilprozeßordnung. 21st edition. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1993 et seq.
  • Zöller, Richard. Zivilprozessordnung. 22nd edition. Köln: Otto Schmidt, 2001 (new edition published every two years).

Commercial Code

  • Baumbach, Adolf/Hueck, Alfred. Handelsgesetzbuch. 30th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000 (appears at irregular, often several-year intervals).
  • Heymann, Ernst (founder). Handelsgesetzbuch. Kommentar. 2nd edition. Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1995- (4 volumes).
  • Schmidt, Karsten (ed.) Münchener Kommentar zum HGB. München: C.H. Beck, 1996- (seven-volumes and supplementary looseleaf volume).
  • Staub, Hermann (founder). HGB. Grosskommentar. 4th edition. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1982- (appears in releases which are subsequently bound).

Labor Law

  • Dieterich, Thomas. Erfurter Kommentar zum Arbeitsrecht. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001.

Tax Law

  • Schmidt, Ludwig. Einkommensteuergesetz. 20th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001 (new edition published annually).
  • Tipke, Klaus. Abgabenordnung. Köln: Otto Schmidt (three-volume looseleaf).

Criminal Code

  • Tröndle, Herbert. Strafgesetzbuch. 50th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2001 (new edition every 2-3 years).
  • Strafgesetzbuch. Leipziger Kommentar. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1992- (published in releases, subsequently bound).

Code of Criminal Procedure

  • Kleinknecht, Theodor/Meyer-Goßner, Lutz. Strafprozeßordnung mit GVG und Nebengesetzen. 44th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 1999.
  • Löwe-Rosenberg (founder). Die Strafprozeßordnung und das Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz. Großkommentar. 24th rev. edition: 1988-1996/25th rev. edition. 1999-.
  • Pfeiffer, Gerd (ed.). Karlsruher Kommentar zur Strafprozeßordnung und zum Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz mit Nebengesetzen. 4th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 1999.

Social Code

  • Hauck, Karl. Sozialgesetzbuch. Berlin: E. Schmidt (17-volume looseleaf).

EU Law

  • Groeben, Hans von der (ed.). Kommentar zum EU/EG-Vertrag. 5th edition. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1997- (6 volumes).

5.2 Handbooks

General

  • Brambring, Günter/Jerschke, Hans. (eds). Beck’sches Notar-Handbuch 2000. 3rd edition. München : C.H. Beck, 2000.
  • Büchting, Hans/Heussen, Benno (eds.). Beck’sches Rechtsanwalts-Handbuch 1999/2000. München: C.H: Beck, 1999.

Administrative Law

  • Achterberg, Norbert. Allgemeines Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Lehrbuch. 2nd edition. Heidelberg: C.F. Müller, 1986.
  • Achterberg, Norbert/Püttner, Günter (eds.). Besonderes Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Lehrbuch. Heidelberg: C.F. Müller, 2000.
  • Wolff, Hans/Bachoff, Otto. Verwaltungsrecht. Ein Studienbuch. 11th edition (vol. 1)/6th edition (vol. 2)/4th edition (vol. 3). München: C.H. Beck, 1999/2000/1978. (5th edition of vol. 3 due to appear in 2001)

Criminal Law

  • Bockemühl, Jan (ed.). Handbuch des Fachanwalts Strafrecht. Neuwied : Luchterhand, 2000.
  • Dahs, Hans. Handbuch des Strafverteidigers. 6th edition. Köln : O. Schmidt, 1999.

Business and Commercial Law

  • Münchener Handbuch des Gesellschaftsrechts. 1st edition. München: C. H. Beck, 1991-1996 (vols 1-3)/2nd edition. 1999 (vol. 4).
  • Schmidt, Karsten. Gesellschaftsrecht. 3rd edition. Köln : Carl Heymanns Verlag, 1997.
  • Schmidt, Karsten. Handelsrecht. 5th edition. Köln : Carl Heymanns Verlag, 1999.

Labor Law

  • Leinemann, Wolfgang. Kasseler Handbuch zum Arbeitsrecht. 1st (vol. 2)/2nd edition (vol. 1). Neuwied : Luchterhand, 2000- in 2 volumes.
  • Richardi, Reinhard/Wlotzke, Otfried. Münchener Handbuch Arbeitsrecht. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000 ff.
  • Schaub, Günter: Arbeitsrechts-Handbuch. 9th edition. München : C.H. Beck, 2000.
  • Tschöpe, Ulrich (ed.). Anwalts-Handbuch Arbeitsrecht. 2nd edition. Köln : O. Schmidt, 2000.

Competition Law

  • Walter, Reinhard/Grüber, Bernd (eds.). Anwalts-Handbuch Wettbewerbspraxis. Köln : O. Schmidt, 1997.

Rental Law

  • Lützenkirchen, Klaus (ed.). Anwalts-Handbuch Mietrecht. Köln : O. Schmidt, 2000.

5.3 Form Books and Standard Contracts

Standard documents, forms, and standard contracts are published in the German legal book market as single-volume editions on a particular subject of law and as multi-volume sets covering a wider range of subjects with detailed tables of contents and indexes providing adequate overview. Some of these books do not only offer standard documents and forms but also annotations and short commentary as an additional aid for the user. Aside from one- and multi-volume bound sets, there are entire serials, with each of the volumes dealing with one particular subject. Another form in which this type of legal literature is published is a combined monograph of the subject and pertinent forms complete with explanations. Handbooks and textbooks, too, sometimes provide standard documents and forms on the subject they are treating.

A number of Web sites offer contract forms, some of them for a fee. These include www.jusline.de, www.fahnder.de, www.jura-lotse.de, www.redmark.de.

Major Sources

Form Books Covering Several Areas of Law

  • Anwaltformulare. Bonn: Deutscher Anwaltsverein, 2000. (legal practice forms)
  • Hoffmann-Becking, M./Schippel, H. (eds). Beck’sches Formularbuch zum Bürgerlichen, Handels- und Wirtschaftsrecht. 7th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 1998. (new edition every 3-4 years; covers civil, commercial and business law)
  • Hopt, Klaus J. (ed.) Vertrags- und Formularbuch zum Handels-, Gesellschafts- und Transportrecht. 2nd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000. (covers commercial, corporate and transportation law)
  • Münchener Vertragshandbuch. 5th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000-. (four volumes; new edition started every four years and completed within two years; extensive coverage of corporate law, commercial and business law incl. international business law, civil law)
  • Locher, H./Mes, P. (eds). Beck’sches Prozessformularbuch. 8th edition. München: Beck, 1998. (new edition every 3-4 years; compilation of forms on procedural issues in different subject areas)
  • Wurm/Wagner/Zartmann. Das Rechtsformularbuch. Praktische Erläuterungen und Muster für das Bürgerliche Recht, Arbeits-, Handels-, Wirtschafts- und Gesellschaftsrecht mit steuer- und kostenrechtlichen Hinweisen. 14th edition. Köln: Heymanns, 1998. (practice forms and standard documents covering civil, labor, commercial, business and corporate law)

Serials

  • Beck’sche Musterverträge. München: C.H. Beck (various years of publication; 40 different contracts currently available including annotations).
  • Heidelberger Musterverträge. Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft (various years of publication; over 80 different standard contracts available covering wide range of subjects).
  • RWS-Vertragsmuster. Köln: RWS-Verlag, div. Jahrgänge (various years of publication; standard contracts; some 15 titles with introduction and explanations).
  • WRS-Musterverträge. Planegg: WRS Verlag Wirtschaft Recht und Steuern (standard contracts; various years of publication; currently eight titles, a hybrid of monograph and form book).

Special-Subject Form Books and Standard Contract Compilations

  • Formularsammlung zum gewerblichen Rechtschutz mit Urheberrecht. 2nd edition. Weinheim: VCH, 1998. (industrial property law/copyright law forms)
  • Pagenberg, Jochen. Lizenzverträge. License Agreements. Kommentierte Vertragsmuster nach deutschem und europäischem Recht. Köln: Heymanns, 1997. (standard contracts with comments and annotations)
  • Schaub, Günter. Arbeitsrechtliche Formularsammlung und Arbeitsgerichtsverfahren. 7th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 1999. (labor law forms compilation)
  • Steuerrechtliches Vertrags- und Formularbuch. Gesellschaftsverträge, sonstige Verträge, Besteuerungsverfahren, Rechtsmittelverfahren, Steuerstrafverfahren. 4th edition. München: Beck, 2001. (tax law contracts and forms including articles of association, taxation procedures, legal redress, tax criminal law)

5.4 Legal Journals, Essays and Article Literature

There are over 600 legal journals in Germany covering every field of law. Unlike, for example, in the US, they are not written by law school students. Rather, they are published by commercial vendors. They usually consist of three parts: scholarly treatises, case law and statutory laws and regulations, and documentation. In addition, they publish essays, discussions of cases, book reviews and information on developments of the law. As mentioned above under 4., some journals specialize in publishing court decisions. They also give more extensive coverage than other journals of decisions of lower courts.

A special form of publication for essays is what is known as Festschriften. These are compilations of scholarly essays, usually on a certain topic, devoted to the anniversaries of important people or institutions. They are generally published in single-volume sets.

Access Tools:

Essays and articles can be accessed through Juris, which indexes over 600 legal journals as well as the contents of Festschriften and yearbooks. For copyright reasons, Juris cannot provide the full text of these articles and essays, but only abstracts and citations. However, Juris has now entered into contractual relations with a number of publishers and, through its own databases, offers some of the articles in full text. C.H. Beck publishers is currently running a test project, offering the full text of 44 journals online, however with a limited scope.

The Karlsruher Juristische Bibliographie is another major access tool which indexes German legal literature since 1965. It is published monthly and includes books and essays, including those from Festschriften and anthologies, as well as doctoral theses on legal topics. It is arranged by subject and, under each subject, by author, and has annual indexes.

NJW Leitsatzkartei auf CD-ROM, published by C.H. Beck on CD-ROM, is a journal index with four annual updates, including headnotes of court reports and article abstracts of over 280,000 documents from 160 legal journals from 1981 (with 20,000 documents added every year) searchable by section, court, date, case number, author, and keywords.

Fundhefte, published by C.H. Beck, are specialized bibliographies for certain fields of law (labor and social law, public law, civil law, tax law) indexing the literature and important case law in that field (published with one year’s delay). They appear annually and index their content after quite some delay.

Kuselit-R, published by Kuselit Verlag, is a bibliography of legal literature with 610,000 index records on CD-ROM with updates via the Internet. Its free guest database on the publisher's home page holds 160,000 records and is searchable by journal, year, issue, author, court, title and keyword.

Festschriften from 1862 up until 1996 can be accessed through a nine-volume Bibliography of Legal Festschriften Titles and Contents. Bibliographie juristischer Festschriften und Festschriftenbeiträge. (also on CD-ROM) edited by Helmut Dau and published by Verlag Müller, Karlsruhe/Verlag Runge, Bielefeld/Verlag Arno Spitz, Berlin between 1962 and 1998.

As full text is a frequent problem with databases, obtaining articles and also doctoral theses, extracts from books and other materials is facilitated by document delivery services. Prominent here is Subito, the document delivery service of the German library unions, which covers a large number of state and university libraries and, for a fee, provides copies from journals and magazines, books, doctoral theses, etc. by fax, mail or e-mail.

Select Literature and Databases

Major Legal Journals

General and Civil Law

  • Juristen-Zeitung (JZ). Tübingen: Mohr, 1945-
  • Monatsschrift für deutsches Recht. Köln: Otto Schmidt, 1947-
  • Neue Juristische Wochenschrift (NJW). München: C.H. Beck, 1947-
  • Neue Juristische Wochenschrift. Rechtsprechungs-Report Zivilrecht (NJW-RR). München: C.H. Beck, 1986-

Business and Commercial Law

  • Betriebs-Berater (BB). Heidelberg: Recht und Wirtschaft, 1946-
  • Der Betrieb (DB). Düsseldorf: Handelsblatt, 1948-
  • Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht (ZIP). Köln: RWS, 1980-

Competition Law

  • Gewerblicher Rechtsschutz und Urheberrecht (GRUR). Weinheim: Wiley-VCH, C.H. Beck (from 2001), 1896-1944/1948-
  • Wettbewerb in Recht und Praxis (wrp). Frankfurt/Main: Deutscher Fachverlag, 1955-

Labor Law

  • Neue Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht (NZA). München: C.H. Beck, 1984-
  • Neue Zeitschrift für Arbeitsrecht. Rechtsprechungs-Report Arbeitsrecht (NZA-RR). München: C. H. Beck, 1996-

Administrative Law

  • Deutsches Verwaltungsblatt (DVBl). Köln: Heymanns, 1948-
  • Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht (NVwZ). München: C.H. Beck, 1982-
  • Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht. Rechsprechungsreport Verwaltungsrecht. München: C.H. Beck, 1988-

Tax Law

  • BFH-NV. Sammlung amtlich nicht veröffentlichter Entscheidungen des Bundesfinanzhofs. Freiburg: Haufe, 1985/86-
  • Bundessteuerblatt (BStBl). Bonn: Stollfuß, 1951-
  • Deutsches Steuerrecht (DStR). München: C.H. Beck, 1962-
  • Entscheidungen der Finanzgerichte (EFG). Bonn: Stollfuß, 1956-

European Law

  • Europäische Zeitschrift für Wirtschaftsrecht (EuZW). München: Beck, 1990-

Journal Databases

  • Beck-online [http://www.beck-online.de], a legal database of C.H. Beck publishers launched in May 2001, with the full text of 39 journals plus eight major commentaries and handbooks as well as 800 laws. - fee-based
  • Fahnder, a legal information platform. Gateway to free and fee-based information. Cooperates with major publishers, Lexis-Nexis, Kuselit - fee-based
  • GBI - business database with access to 150 databases of business information and press materials - fee-based
  • GENIOS - business database by Handelsblatt publishers hosts 550 databases of press materials, company information, news, etc. - fee-based

5.5 Major Law Dictionaries

  • Achtenberg, Norbert (ed.). Ergänzbares Lexikon des Rechts. Neuwied: Luchterhand (seven-volume looseleaf service with 5-6 supplements per year).
  • Creifelds, C. Rechtswörterbuch. 16th edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000. (published every two years; definitions of legal terms with references to the law.)
  • Götze, E. Rechtslexikon, the online version of a law dictionary published by Heymanns publishers in print and CD-ROM formats.
  • Rechtswörterbuch des WDR, an online law dictionary via WDR public television station with more than 3,000 entries.
  • Tilch, H. (ed.). Deutsches Rechtslexikon. 3rd edition. München: C.H. Beck, 2000.

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6. Citations to German Legal Sources

Forms of citation may vary from one publication or author to another. The following are the major hard-and-fast rules for citations to laws, cases, monographs, commentaries, and journal articles.

German statutes, journals, case reporters, law gazettes, and also courts are cited by their abbreviations. Abbreviations for statutes are determined by the legislator, those for journals often by the publisher. Access to abbreviation indexes are therefore important for the legal researcher. Common forms of citation and abbreviation are summarized in Kirchner, Hildebert. Abkürzungsverzeichnis der Rechtssprache. 4th edition. Berlin: de Gruyter, 1993. An addendum by Dietrich Pannier is available on the Internet at www.uni-karlsruhe.de/~bgh/abkuerz.htm (last edited on March 3, 1999). Another useful list of abbreviations can be accessed free of charge on the home page of ZAP publishers at www.zap-verlag.de/online-dienste/iusgratis/akv.html. Alternatively, one can use commentaries and major handbooks, which usually feature extensive abbreviation indexes on their particular subject. It cannot, however, be taken for granted at all that abbreviations are used uniformly. There may be completely different ones depending on the source one uses.

Juris, by and large, sticks to the official abbreviations, but sometimes, for IT or administrative reasons, uses divergent ones.

Statutes are divided into sections and subsections, and the latter into sentences. Sections are usually referred to by the section sign (§) and subsections by Abs. (for the German word Absatz) and Arab numerals. The citation to section 5 subsection 3, first sentence 1 of the German Limited Liability Company Act would look as follows: § 1 Abs. 1 Satz 1 GmbHG. Citations to Bundesgesetzblatt and Bundessteuerblatt as the official sources include the source abbreviation, part number, year and page as follows: BGBl I 1999, 205 or BStBl II 2000, 103

Citations to commentaries may not be entirely uniform, but usually include the founder (who is treated like an author), the author of the particular passage cited (or the title of the commentary and the author of a particular passage) and the section and annotation number (in rare cases, page numbers are mentioned as well). Sometimes, if the reference to the section commented on is obvious, the section itself is not mentioned. Some commentaries give recommendations as to the form of citation to use, usually by an example, on the back of the title page.

Cases are usually referred to by citation to the publication with volume and page number (BverfGE 40, 46) or the court, publication and page number (LG Augsburg, NJW 2000, 2363) or the court, date of decision, case number, and source reference (OLG Frankfurt a.M., Urt. v. 7.12.1999 - Z Ss 259/99 -, NJW 2001, 908). Indication of the court, case number, date of court decision and source reference would be desirable, but is not at all common.

Monographs are referred to by the name and first name (or at least initial) of the author, title, edition (if applicable), place and year of publication. In German usage, the name of the publisher is not part of the citation (e.g., Tipke, Klaus, Steuerrecht: Ein systematischer Grundriß, 12. völlig überarb. Aufl., Köln, 1989).

Journal articles are cited by author and title plus reference to the journal (usually the abbreviation), year of publication and page number (e.g., Hufen, F., In dubio pro dignitate. In: NJW 2001, 849 or sometimes in article footnotes just by author, e.g., Steffen, NJW 1996, 1581). With longer articles, reference is often made to the page relevant to a particular subject.

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7. Translations of German Legal Resources into English

A bibliography of translations of German statutes has been published by the Press and Information Office of the German Federal Government. Volume 1 deals with translations into English (Presse-und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung. Auslandsabteilung. Übersetzungen deutscher Gesetzestexte. Eine Bibliographie. Translations of German Laws. A Bibliography. Vol. 1 English. Bonn: April 1997.)

Pointers to English translations of German laws, cases and other legal resources in English can be found on the following Web sites:

Often, translations of laws are also provided on the homepages of government ministries and agencies (for a list click here).

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8. Useful Links

8.1 Government

8.2 Courts

8.3 Major Legal Publishers

8.4 University and Central Libraries

8.5 Legal Internet Projects

  • Law-related Internet Project of Saarbrücken University - Law Resources in English
  • Gesetze im Internet (joint project by the German Federal Government and Juris GmbH)
  • Marktplatz-Recht, a gateway to legal information by Hans Soldan GmbH in association with the German Federal Bar Association, the German Lawyers Association and the Federal Notaries Association.
  • NYU Law Library, an extensive database of foreign jurisdictions, including Germany with links to statutes, cases, and legal authorities, institutions and organizations.

8.6 Major Professional Organizations

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9. Overview of Fee-based Legal Databases

Juris - Legal Information System of the Federal Republic of Germany (CD-ROM and online)
Established in the 1970s by the Federal Ministry of Justice, it was privatized in the 1980s. The majority share is held by the federal government, the other shares were recently bought by Netherlands-based Sdu. Juris cooperates closely with courts and publishers. Cases are evaluated by document specialists of the Federal Constitutional Court and the other five highest federal courts. Juris comprises 42 databases with close to three million records. They cover federal and state laws and regulations, statutory materials, European Union law (Celex) database, the laws of the former East Germany, collective bargaining agreements, journal articles and other legal literature. It indexes over 600 legal journals and case reporters and is updated daily. Only part of the records are offered full-text, one of the reasons for this being copyright. Included are specialized databases for asylum and environmental law and technology law. Access through the World Wide Web is under preparation and scheduled for 2001.
Deutsche Rechtsprechung (Verlag Recht und Praxis)
Over 110,000 cases in full text.
Fahnder (Verlag Recht und Praxis)
This relatively recent database emerged as an initiative of the Verlag Recht und Praxis publisher and has been online since February 2000. It contains some 3 million records, some free and some for a fee. Its coverage includes federal and state statutory texts, court decisions, standard contracts, commentaries, legal directories, events, business and tax news, press information, information on legislative projects. It offers customized newsletters as one of its services.
Refact
A commercial database with more than three million records; extensive coverage of federal and state laws and executive orders, cases, standard contracts, commentaries, business and tax information, legislative developments, new legal publications, and more.
Alexis.web
A gateway to legal databases maintained by Hans Soldan GmbH.
Beck-online
A legal database of Germany’s most significant legal publisher with the full text of 39 journals and the full text of eight major commentaries and handbooks plus the texts of the major commercial statutory compilations Schönfelder I, Sartorius I and a compilation of labor law texts. The service can be used by pay-as-you-go and as a subscription service in the categories field of law, statutes or journals. An overview of database contents is currently still available at http://rsw.beck.de/bib/home/inhalt/inhalt.asp.
Legios (http://www.legios.de or http://www.legios.com)
A commercial gateway to legal and business information is about to launch its test operation as an ambitious joint project by Verlagsgruppe Handelsblatt, Carl Heymanns Verlag and Verlag Dr. Otto Schmidt publishers. It is planned to provide more case reports than Juris, all business journals offered by these publishers, leading tax commentaries, a comprehensive trademark database, attorney and court directories, industry and company information.

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10. Select Sources on Legal Research in German Law

  • Hirte, Heribert. Der Zugang zu Rechtsquellen und Rechtsliteratur. Köln: Heymanns, 1991.
  • Kroiß, Ludwig/Schuhbeck, Sebastian. Jura Online. Recherchieren in Internet und Datenbanken. Neuwied: Luchterhand, 2000.
  • Lansky, Ralph. Handbuch der juristischen Bibliotheken: deutsche Allgemein- und Spezialbibliotheken mit bedeutenden juristischen Beständen sowie Arbeitsgemeinschaft für juristisches Bibliotheks- und Dokumentationswesen: Darstellung, Verzeichnis und Bibliographie. Handbook of law libraries: German general and special libraries with important law collections and the German Law Libraries Association: description, directory and bibliography. Berlin: Deutsches Bibliotheksinstitut, 1993.
  • Reynolds, Thomas H./Flores, Arturo A. Foreign Law: Current Sources of Codes and Basic Legislation in Jurisdictions of the World. Volume II - Western and Eastern Europe. Littleton: F.B. Rothman, 1989-.
  • Walter, Raimund-Ekkehard/Heidtmann, Frank. Wie finde ich juristische Literatur. Berlin: Berlin Verlag A. Spitz, c1984.
  • Wilke, Gitta. Informationsführer Jura: Juristische Recherche on- und offline. Hamburg: W. Mauke Söhne, 1999.

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Footnotes

1 Cf. Robbers, Gerhard, Einführung in das deutsche Recht, 2nd edition, Baden-Baden: Nomos Verl.-Ges., 1998, p. 19.  <back to text>
2 Cf. Ebke, Werner F./Finkin, Matthew W. Introduction to German Law. The Hague: Kluwer, 1996., p. 2 et seq.  <back to text>