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The Position of the Federal Court of Justice in the German Court System

Apart from the Federal Court of Justice, there are four other supreme Federal courts: the Federal Administrative Court (Bundesverwaltungsgericht) in Leipzig, the Federal Finance Court (Bundesfinanzhof) in Munich, the Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) in Erfurt and the Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) in Kassel.

A special role is played by the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht), also headquartered in Karlsruhe. Its task is to monitor compliance with the constitution. In what is known as judicial review proceedings, it examines laws and, in case of complaints of unconstitutionality, other acts of state such as court rulings, for their constitutionality. In that case, however, appellants must assert that a violation of their constitutionally guaranteed rights has occurred. The interpretation and application of so-called ordinary law – i.e. rules and regulations of a non-constitutional nature – lie outside the purview of constitutional jurisdiction.

Based in Luxembourg, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) constitutes the highest judicial authority of the European Union. In accordance with Article 267(3) TFEU, the Federal Court of Justice, as the court of last instance in matters of ordinary jurisdiction, will refer questions concerning the interpretation of European Union law to the Court of Justice of the European Union for decision.

Finally, in order to enforce the rights laid down in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of 4 November 1950, cases can be taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg.

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