Courts and Judges in the New Federal States in United Germany: has legal unification worked?1
By Dr GISELA SHAW
This study is based on personal interviews conducted with East and West German jurists over the last 4 years, starting in March 1990. Interviews took place in Thuringia, Saxony and Mecklenburg Pomerania in the East and Northrhine Westphalia, Bremen, Berlin, Hesse and Rhineland Palatinate in the West.2 My intention has been to observe at close quarters the changes in the East German judiciary and the legal professions in general. For the purposes of this paper, the focus will be on two aspects of this process: firstly, the restructuring of the court system; secondly, the situation of judges at these courts. The question I want to raise is whether the legal administration in East Germany might be in danger of becoming a second-class replica of that in the West.
1. The significance of legal unification
Three main factors have been driving legal unification.
1. The generally acknowledged need to act at maximum speed in order to safeguard law and order within Eastern Germany as well as to provide a sound framework for the restructuring of its economy. It is worth remembering that the Federal Republic, from its very beginning, has set great store by its constitutional base and its highly developed and refined legal system as a measure of its democratic maturity. It was clearly in the interest of the West to demonstrate that even such a unique event as the accession of the GDR to the Federal Republic of Germany could be dealt with within this well established framework.
2. The equally undisputed need to ensure that the East German population, hungering after justice and having been promised the introduction of a ”Rechtsstaat”, a state governed by the rule of law, should not be disappointed. This required the installation of a
1 A report based on this paper was presented at the Third European Conference on Legal Professions in Rouen, France, 13–16 July 1994. 2 I would like to acknowledge my gratitude to all those who have made these interviews possible, in particular the Ministry of Justice in Rhineland Palatinate.