Structure of the Administrative Jurisdiction
The administrative jurisdiction has a three-tier structure.
There are 51 administrative courts in Germany. They are the lowest instance of the administrative jurisdiction. Each administrative court is responsible for its court district and as a rule decides as the court of first instance. The administrative courts are divided into chambers. Chamber decisions in proceedings are made by a panel of three professional judges and two honorary judges. The honorary judges do not take part in decision procedures (Beschlussverfahren). Simple matters may also be entrusted to a judge sitting alone. According to the law asylum proceedings have to be decided by a judge sitting alone.
Higher administrative courts
The higher administrative courts make up the middle level of the administrative jurisdiction. In the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Hesse they are known as Verwaltungsgerichtshöfe. There is one higher administrative court in each of the federal states, though the federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg share a higher administrative court. Higher administrative courts adjudicate in appeals on points of facts and law against judgments, and complaints against decisions (Beschlüsse) of the administrative courts. They are also the courts of first instance for certain matters. For example, this applies to judicial reviews that among other things assess the validity of land-use plans or other regulations at sub-legislative level. The higher administrative courts decide their cases in panels comprising three to five professional judges, depending on the federal state laws and type of proceedings. Two honorary judges are involved in some cases as well. Decisions (Beschlüsse) are made by three judges. Higher administrative courts decide as courts of last resort in the interpretation and application of federal state law.
Federal Administrative Court
The highest administrative court is the Federal Administrative Court. It usually decides upon appeals on points of law, but increasingly as court of first and last instance as well. Five professional judges adjudicate judgments based on oral hearings. Three professional judges issue decisions (Beschlüsse) in proceedings without oral arguments. Honorary judges only contribute to cases heard before the Bundeswehr (German armed forces) disciplinary and military service matters.