The Hessian Justice System
The Hessian Ministry of Justice’s responsibilities span the courts of ordinary jurisdiction (41 local courts and nine regional courts and the higher regional court [OLG] in Frankfurt/Main), administrative tribunals, labor courts, social courts, the financial court as well as the public prosecutor’s offices and the penal institutions. The Law Students’ Examination Authority (JPA) is also affiliated with the Ministry of Justice. The Hessian justice system comprises approx. 14,000 judges, civil servants, clerks and trainee attorneys.
The ordinary jurisdiction forms by far the largest part of the different branches of judicial power in Hessen. Together with the regional courts (and sometimes higher regional court), the local courts are the courts of first instance of the ordinary jurisdiction. The local courts are in charge of civil legal disputes with disputed amounts of up to 5,000 euro. Independent from the disputed amounts, the local courts are also in charge of legal cases with regard to real estate rentals, child support and maintenance claims as well as family law cases. The local courts are in charge of all criminal cases where no imprisonment for more than four years is to be expected and where it is unlikely that the accused will be sentenced to confinement in a psychiatric hospital or in preventive detention.
The public prosecutor’s office is an independent arm of the administration of justice, notably in the domain of criminal justice. Pursuant to German criminal procedural law, it is legally obliged to be objective, which means it is equally required to investigate and take into account both exonerating and incriminating facts with regard to the accused.
In Hessen there are 16 independent penal institutions with four branches (including one institution with preventive detention). Institutions of varying size are distributed throughout the state’s territory.