Southern Illinois University School of Law–Legal Globalization & Comparative Law 2014

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Palace of Justice, Munich, Germany

440px-Muenchen-Verfassungsgerichtshof1-Bubo

Upon arriving to Europe, I was immediately struck by the rich architecture reflected of the buildings. The same feeling struck me when I entered the Munich, Germany, Palace of Justice.

The Palace of Justice was constructed in 1890-1897 by the architect Friedrich von Thiersch. The building of the Gründerzeit is dominated by a glass dome (67 meters). It houses the Bavarian Department of Justice and the District Court I of Munich. The People’s Court in the Justizpalast is probably the most memorable of all, as it was the location where the members of the White Rose were sentenced in 1943.

We met Dr. iur. Manfred Dauster, a German judge, at the entrance to the court. Judge Dauster started our tour by giving a historical explanation of the court, followed by a tour of room 253, where the trial of the White rose members took place, and discussion of the events. Judge Dauster then explained to us about the German legal system and its uniqueness from the American legal system.

The legal studies in Germany takes seven semester or more. The Bar exam combine written and oral components, and sprawl over two weeks. When talking to Dr. Dauster, I could immediately feel the German difference in style. Dr. Dauster handed us a flow-chart describing the German Legal system (see picture) his own hand-writing. What impressed me greatly was that the judge could easily have his secretary make a word typed chart.  However, the judge chose to write out the chart himself, in an incredibly beautiful manner. This is a small gesture that, in my opinion, attests to an important cultural difference; that of the personal touch. Such personal touch reflects a binding commitment you have with your work product. A work is no longer just another document; it is your very own hand-writing—it is you.

Germany Legal System 2

This attitude is a major factor in today’s German legal system and can be seen in other ways. For instance, the prosecutor’s career is depended on his or her integrity and attention to justice. This is in sharp contrast to an American prosecutor, whose career depends on the number of cases he or she wins or loses—the more the better. In Germany, quite the opposite holds true, a militant prosecutor is viewed as unprofessional and someone not concerned with the individual justice of each specific case.

The Germany’s history of WWII and the Nazi party has taught the Germans humility. The past also taught Germany that the judicial system is not mistake proof, and resulted in the wrongful conviction of innocent people under the Nazi regime.  Such a history is indeed a stain on any country; however, it also led to today’s German legal system to be especially sensitive to the potential of injustice at the hands of the court. Judge Dauster’s hand written chart may seem superfluous to some; a minor detail.  However, to me it was an important example, indeed a testimony of refusal to hide behind the system and superlatives. No theatricality, justice is personal.  I will strive to being this attitude into my own legal practice.

~RS

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