Introductory remarks. Any description of criminal procedure would be incomplete and practically unintelligible without some account of the position of judges, the various kinds of courts called upon to decide criminal cases, and the delimitations of their jurisdiction. These matters are dealt with, not by the StPO, but by the GVG.
Section I of the GVG states: 'Judicial power shall be exercised by independent courts bound only by rules of law ', and articles 92 and 97 of the
Basic Law for the Federal Republic repeat this principle. The independence of the judiciary has a double connotation: in contrast to all other officialsand notably to public prosecutors-judges in the exercise of their judicial functions are independent of the orders of any superior; they are independent even of the decisions of higher courts. In this respect the position of a German judge differs materially from that of a judge in an English court, for, whilst independent in every other respect, the latter is bound by the decisions of superior courts. German courts frequently adhere to the decisions of superior courts, in particular those pronounced by the Reichsgericht, but this is due, not to any legal obligation, but to the esteem in which the higher court is held. To ensure their independence, German judges are appointed for life with a fixed salary excluding fees of any kind. They can only be dismissed after judicial proceedings on grounds laid down by law.
Since 1924 both the composition and the jurisdiction of German criminal courts have been altered more than once, partly for political, partly for financial reasons. For some time the participation of lay judges in assize courts-Schwurgerichten-and of lay assessors in Schlffengerichten was suspended; this led to a considerable extension of the jurisdiction of courts composed exclusively of professional judges. Criminal courts of first instance are now the Amtsgerichte, or district courts consisting of a single judge the Amstrichter who may, however, sit with two lay assessors when the courts are styled Schiffengerichte: and the Landgerichte or regional courts which sit either as Strafkammern (lit. Penal chambers), or as Schwurgerichte-assize courts; Cases of high treason (Hochverrat) and acts designed to break up parliament (Parlamentssprengung) are dealt with by the Bundesgerichtshof or the Oberlandesgericht as criminal courts of first and last instance (section 134 GVG).
SECTION III - Judges, Courts And Their Jurisdiction
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