Early in 2010, the Landgericht Bonn established a civil division which conducts court hearings in civil matters in English. Thus, it has responded to a request put forward by numerous practicing lawyers. Their German and international clients prefer court hearings in English without, however, having to forego the widely acknowledged excellent standard of the German judicial system. The approach ensures speedy proceedings at reasonable legal costs, and hence provides a viable and convenient alternative to private arbitration.
At the same time, the Landgericht Bonn already performs a function which the divisions for international commercial cases (Kammern für Internationale Handelssachen) are designed to fulfil in the future (cf. the bill tabled by the Bundesrat in June 2010, Bundestagsdrucksache 17/2163).
Parties who have little or no command of the German language but do speak, or at least understand, English can now follow the hearings and, where appropriate, state their position.
Enquiries by the court can be answered immediately – without assistance from interpreters.
There is no longer any need to have any documents in English submitted by the parties translated into German at extensive cost. However, the statement of claim and additional pleadings, the judgment and the records of the court hearing have to be written in German for the time being.
There are only three prerequisites for a court hearing in English:
The lawsuit must have an international dimension.
At the beginning of the lawsuit the parties must explicitly declare their intention to conduct the court hearing in English.
The parties waive the right that the court hearing is translated by an interpreter.
A special civil division, i.e. the 19th Civil Division, has been set up at the Landgericht Bonn for such court hearings in English. The judges working in this division studied law abroad at English-speaking universities (some of them earned an LLM or MJur degree) and practice their knowledge of the Common Law and its terminology regularly. They are therefore perfectly equipped to hear a civil case in English.
The first court hearing by the 19th Civil Division in May 2010 received wide media coverage. With the 19th Civil Division the Landgericht Bonn thus underpins the position of the German judicial system within a Europe which is growing closer together - language-wise as well.