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Courts hear business cases in English

The Local · 10 Jan 2010, 11:06

Published: 10 Jan 2010 11:06 GMT+01:00

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The initiative was launched after it was noted that the most lucrative cases – for both state coffers and lawyers – were being conducted outside of Germany because international businesses did not want to handle legal matters in German.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung paper reported at the weekend that justice ministers of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hamburg, Roswitha Müller-Piepenkötter and Till Steffen respectively, aimed to change the law governing the German courts so that cases could be conducted in English.

The paper says many internationally-active businesses were used to negotiating and closing contracts in English, and made provisions to deal with disputes in the same language – ensuring that any court cases are heard in an English-speaking country.

"Germany as a legal centre suffers from the fact that court laws stipulate that German is the language to be used," Müller-Piepenkötter said. "Foreign contract partners and parties in court cases are wary of dealing with things in a foreign language before a German court."

The proposal she and Steffen have drawn up, along with representatives from judge and lawyer associations, foresees certain district courts across Germany being empowered to establish special courts for international business matters – in English.

Brigitte Kamphausen, deputy chairman of the judges’ association told the paper, “In my seven year as chairman… I have often experienced how many nuances and details have been lost in translation into German.”

German judges would be capable of dealing with things in English, she said, noting that many judges have worked in international chancelleries or have added a Master of Laws qualification to their CV.

Story continues below…

For now, the pioneering work is being conducted in North Rhine-Westphalia where the Higher Regional Court of Cologne – and thus the district courts of Aachen, Bonn and Cologne which fall under its jurisdiction – offers special English-language court hearings.

But because the law has not yet been changed, although all oral contributions are conducted in English, all written submissions, as well as the verdict, still have to be in German.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

23:23 January 10, 2010 by The-ex-pat
Can't wait to here the translation of this then; Rindfleischetikettierungsüberwachungsaufgabenübertragungsgesetz
01:46 January 11, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
Babel Fish translates it as:

"Transmission law of task of beef labeling monitoring"


It's idioms that I really love. The cat's in the bag now :-)
09:29 January 11, 2010 by Dogs_Gonads
Google's effort.

Beef Labeling Law Monitoring delegation.

Hate to be the dolmetscher/Übersetzer in those cases.
12:23 January 11, 2010 by Heinrich der Zweite
"Foreign contract partners and parties in court cases are wary of dealing with things in a foreign language before a German court."

Westerwelle also refuses to answer any english questions.
14:12 January 11, 2010 by mixxim
It is clear that British Law gives greater flexibility in matters of Justice. The German leaders will then be able to screw their population as the British have been. I would rather see french brought in with Napoleanic codes (and the guillotine!)
14:23 January 11, 2010 by gkh50
Not as easy at it sounds. 1. A contract in Germany can have arbitration in English if the contracts states it. The court then abides by the contract.

Holding a case in English with German law is also not as easy as it sounds as its down to the translation issues which is common event in standard Conflict of laws. The main pressure will be if the German Lawyers (no dis-respect) can actually perform in English. A colleague is a senior Counsel for a Dutch firm. Her English is perfect but they employ English Barristers for contract discussions. A case in Canada was held in English and did not get anywhere until the Judge read the original contract (in French) and then handed down his judgement. It all will barrel down to what is the lex fori (choice of law) that the case is held in, and that people is another topic!
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