Georgetown Law
Georgetown Law Library

German Legal Research Guide

This in-depth guide will help researchers navigate the German legal materials.

Case Law

Since Germany is a civil law country, case law is not as important as it is in the United States. Germany does not have a comprehensive reporter system similar to the federal and regional reporters of the U.S. The most important German courts are the Bundesverfassungsgericht (the Federal Constitutional Court) and the Bundesgerichtshof (High Court), hearing civil and criminal matters. Decisions from these courts are available in print and recently online. Researchers are likely to find decisions from the highest German courts; locating lower court decisions is often difficult to impossible.

Court Decisions in German

  • Entscheidungen des Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) Decisions are available in two places, online (beginning in 1998 to the present) and between (1951-2010) online and in print (1952 - current). INTL KK5466.5 .B86 The Federal Constitutional Court is the highest court of the Federal Republic of Germany and has jurisdiction over constitutional disputes between the German states.
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Zivilsachen (Federal Supreme Civil Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2000) and in print (1951 - current) INTL KK44 .B86
  • Entscheidungen des Bundesgerichtshofes in Strafsachen (Federal Supreme Criminal Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2000) and in print (1951 - current) INTL KK7980.3 .B86
  • Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court) Decisions are available online (beginning in 2002). The Wolff library does not have print copies of the decisions of the Bundesverwaltungsgericht.

English Translations

German cases in English translation are much harder to find than German statutes in translation. In addition to the sources listed below, journals articles may reprint portions of key cases or discuss them in depth. General online searching may occasionally prove successful in locating translations of a few well-known cases. German case law is not available in Lexis or Westlaw.

  • German Legal Materials (Institute for Transnational Law - U. of Texas at Austin)
    A collection of translated German decisions in the areas of constitutional, administrative, tort, contract and restitution law.
  • Decisions of the Bundesverfassungsgericht (Federal Constitutional Court) Federal Republic of Germany INTL KK5466.5 .B863 1992