Direct quote of presiding judge: "In the name of the people the judgments of the lower instances are amended. The defendant is obliged to review his decision."
The Federal Administrative Court – legal rulings with fundamental significance
The Federal Administrative Court acts as an appellate court dealing with questions of law. Its judgments and decisions act as guidance and ensure a consistent application of the law by public authorities and courts throughout Germany. This means that its decisions must measure up to especially high standards of quality. The work processes of the Court are structured to ensure this goal.
If a case makes it to the Federal Administrative Court, the court registry will assign it a file reference number. The case is assigned to a reporting judge. Claimant and defendant will first explain their positions in writing.
The case is then reviewed based on statutory law, jurisprudence and legal literature. The critical question: did the lower court interpret and apply federal law correctly? Based on the preparatory work of the research assistants, the competent reporting judge drafts a comprehensive decision proposal known as the opinion. Another member of the senate – the co-reporting judge – will then issue a co-opinion. All senate judges receive these opinions and comprehensively familiarise themselves with the case.
Prior to the oral hearing, the reporting judge will present the case in a preliminary discussion and argue his decision proposal. The judges will deliberate on central aspects of the case. In this way, they prepare the oral hearings without making a decision yet.
The court police service prepares the courtroom for the oral hearing. All required files are made available. Direct quote of court police: "Oral hearing in the administrative litigation Mr. Müller vs. the Federal Republic of Germany."
The presiding judge of the senate will chair the oral hearing. Direct quote of presiding judge: "I hereby open the session of the 3rd Senate of the Federal Administrative Court." The reporting judge then presents the facts of the case. Direct quote at the beginning of the reporting: "The claimant seeks approval of a pharmaceutical. He applied for this in 2013." Afterwards, the lawyers file their applications. In proceedings before the Federal Administrative Court, every party to the proceedings must be represented by a lawyer. Public authorities may be represented by their own jurists. The preparation by the lawyers helps with understanding all aspects of the case and the possible consequences of a decision. All legal questions are examined with the parties in this legal discussion which will often go on for hours. The senate will then retire for deliberation.
The judges will again weigh all legal aspects and arguments in a secret final deliberation. Afterwards, the senate decides unanimously or by majority vote. The senate will also often draft a press statement. The presiding judge announces the decision in the courtroom, summarising the major reasons. The press office publishes the press release. Press spokespersons explain the decision to the media.
In the following days, the reporting judge will draft the written judgment. The reasons for the decision elaborate the results of the senate deliberation. This text is discussed and agreed on in the senate. The court registry collates the finished judgment. A court registry employee checks if changes are correctly implemented and if all citations are correct. The judgment is served to the parties. The information services of the Court publish an anonymised version via the Court website, legal databases and magazines for use by the public and the legal profession.
Special rules apply in cases where the Federal Administrative Court is the court of both first and last instance, for example, in decisions about large transport route projects. In order to bring such cases to a speedy conclusion, the law provides for only one instance at the Federal Administrative Court. In these types of proceedings, the Federal Administrative Court is also required to ascertain the facts and to apply the laws of the German federal states. These cases can be very complex. The oral hearing may continue for days. Due to the extent of the required deliberations and the scope of the cases, a separate date will often be set for pronouncing the judgment.
The decisions of the Federal Administrative Court have fundamental importance. The work of the Court is structured to ensure their balance.