The Tasks of the Federal Court of Justice
The task of the Federal Court of Justice is primarily to ensure uniform application of law, clarify fundamental points of law and develop the law. In general, it reviews rulings of the lower courts only with regard to errors of law. Even if the binding effect of the judgments and rulings of the Federal Court of Justice is technically confined to the respective case decided, in practice the lower courts follow its interpretation of the law virtually without exception. The far-reaching effect of rulings of the Federal Court of Justice is also due to the fact that, particularly in the field of civil law, legal practice is often guided by these rulings.
With a few exceptions, the Federal Court of Justice acts as a court of appeal. Its principal task is to ensure uniformity of the law through clarification of fundamental points of law and development of the law.
It will not undertake fact-finding of its own but will confine itself to reviewing the legal assessment of a case by the lower courts. The facts established by these courts are binding on the Federal Court of Justice, unless such findings are affected by a procedural error at the lower court pointed out in the statement of grounds for appeal.
Evidence will therefore not normally be heard by the Federal Court of Justice. One of the few exceptions to this rule is the Federal Court of Justice’s Civil Panel X, which is responsible for patent cases and performs trial-judge functions as a court of appeal in patent revocation proceedings (German Patent Law, sections 110 and 115).