Strasbourg, 24 January 2003
CCJE (2003) 31
Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE)
Questionnaire on judges’ training: reply submitted by the delegation of Germany
Questionnaire on Judges, Training
a) Initial training for prospective judges
1. Are prospective judges given any initial training?
If so, how long does it last?
The most important training for the future work as a judge is the period of Preparatory Training (“Vorbereitungsdienst”) after the legal studies at a university and the taking of the first state examination. Trainees have a special status under public law. Whoever concludes the Preparatory Training by taking the second state examination shall be qualified to hold judicial office. This Preparatory Training, which offers certain possibilities of specialization, as well as the second state examination are also the prerequisite to most other legal professions (for example as counsel or civil servant). Most participants in the Preparatory Training do not become judges, many even do not intend to. Nevertheless the training and the second state examination are mainly oriented at the requirements of judicial office. Recent legislation, however, emphasizes the importance of training for work as counsel.
The period of Preparatory Training shall last for two years. Training shall mainly be given at the following compulsory agencies:
- at a court of ordinary jurisdiction in civil matters,
- at a court with jurisdiction in criminal matters or at a public prosecutor’s office,
- at an administrative authority,
- with counsel,
In addition the trainee shall be trained at one or more optional agencies (for instance at an Administrative or Labour Court or a higher court, at a trade union or a business enterprise). Training at a compulsory agency shall last at least three months, training with counsel depending on Land law six or nine months. Land law may provide further modifications also with respect to other agencies.
2. Is the right or requirement to undergo training stipulated in any law or regulation?
Yes. The main principles of the above mentioned Preparatory Training are regulated by federal law (cf. Sections 5 – 6 of the German Judiciary Act). Further details are provided by Land law.
3. Is training run and financed by the state or by other means?
Yes, by the state.
Is it free for of charge for prospective judges and are the latter paid?
Participation in the Preparatory Training is free of charge. All trainees (not only those who intend to become a judge) are paid.
4./5. Is there a judges’ training institution? If so, is it a permanent public body?
If there is such an institution, please describe briefly, how it is organised, how it operates and who provides the training.
“Training institutions” for participants in the Preparatory Training are the courts and other above mentioned “agencies” (see 1.). Training is provided by a judge or in the case of the other “agencies” a civil servant or a counsel (see below 6.).
Specialized trainings institutions exist for appointed judges (see below b)1.)
6. What subjects does judges initial training cover?
The Preparatory training covers all subjects of daily practice in court. During the trainee’s service at a court one judge is responsible for him (normally not for more than one or two trainees at the same time). This judge shall give the necessary instructions with respect to the trainee’s work. The trainee shall be enabled to an increasingly independent work. There are considerable differences in practice with respect to the time the judge devotes to this task and the way he or she handles it. After the end of the respective training period this judge writes a report assessing the trainee’s performance.
The most important part of the trainee's work consists of writing opinions on pending cases and drafts of courts decisions. Depending on quality they may be used for courts decisions (in practice often only partly or with modifications). They take part in court hearings and participate normally also in the deliberations of the court (cf. Section 193 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz). There they may present oral opinions in cases they have prepared. Certain functions may be transferred to a trainee (for example oral pleading at the bar during training with counsel or at a public prosecutors office).
In addition trainees take part in weekly working groups outside of the regular work at court. These working groups are normally directed by a judge. They are focusing on specific questions arising during the respective training period (for instance at a civil or criminal court). Some Laender are providing additional introductory seminars for trainees.
7. Is there an end-of-training examination to assess ability to perform the duties of judge?
Yes, the second state examination. Taking this exam is a prerequisite not only to judicial office, but also to the other legal professions (cf. above 1.). After a controversial debate recent legislation upheld this system of one final exam for the different legal professions, even if legal education and training offer possibilities for specialization in many ways.
b) In-service training
The following statement refers both to judges on probation and to judges appointed for life or - if stipulated by federal legislation - for a specific term. A judge may only be appointed for life after a period of work on probation (in practice normally three years).
1. Is there an in-service training scheme? If so, how is it organized and what subjects are covered?
Yes. In-service training is mainly run by special training institutions. The two nationwide Judges' Academies ("Richterakademien") at Trier and Wustrau (near Berlin) offer training seminars of usually one week, some times 1 ½ or two weeks. Every judge and prosecutor receives the yearly program of these Academies in advance and may apply for participation in one ore several seminars. It is his free decision for which seminar he applies. Training is provided in groups of about 30 or 40 persons. A seminar covers for instance a specific branch of law and/or typical situations judges or prosecutors are confronted with. For example: Introduction to a new statute; actual issues of family law; consumer protection. The subjects go beyond a job training in a narrow sense. They include topics as rhetorical training; mediation; interdisciplinary subjects; the role of the judiciary under the Nazi regime or in communist East Germany. Social competence belongs to the required objects. International seminars with judges from foreign countries are regularly being offered. Seminars typically include lectures (for instance by a judge or a law professor) and discussions.
The director of the Judges' Academy (normally a judge) is appointed for a three years term. The topics of the seminars are selected by a "Program Conference" consisting of the Federal and Laender Ministers of Justice and representatives of Judges Associations.
Similar training schemes are offered by training institutions on Laender level and sometimes also by Judges Associations.
2. Is in-service training optional or compulsory?
It is optional. Certain training schemes for judges on probation may be compulsory.
3. Who runs such training?
See above 1.
4. What approaches are adopted to impress upon judges the need to improve their professional skills?
Information about seminars held by Judges' Academies and other institutions.
5. Is there a specific training scheme for judges at the beginning of their careers?
Normally yes. There is no uniform practice in the German Laender, however. Partly there are introductory seminars for judges on probation (for instance for two weeks). Other Laender provide several seminars during the probation period. Judges' Academies and Judges Associations are also offering such seminars.