Association of Commercial Judges− Business expertise for the judical system

History of commercial judges

500 years of commercial judges – Imperial edict of Maximilian I in 1508

Only a few institutions of commercial law have survived from the ancient world; no complete system of commercial laws is known.

Roman law only had a few isolated bases of claim specifically for commercial law purposes.

During the Middle Ages, towns throughout the lands of the Holy Roman Empire adopted a practice that had begun in Italy, developing a common law system of occupational law for merchants. This system was adapted to local circumstances, though often in very similar ways, and reflected in municipal law and the charters of merchant guilds.

Merchants and traders wanted to remain independent from the jurisdiction of local princes and to accelerate the pace of judicial proceedings. Then as now, such proceedings tended to be particularly slow for cross-border transactions. Towns in northern Italy developed a special body of case law for merchant guilds that came to be known as Lex Mercatoria in England. This transnational system found its way into Germany during the late medieval period.

The Bankoamt in Nuremberg was one of the first German merchant courts. An imperial edict of Maximilian I in 1508 has the following to say about it:

“No one is more skilled at reaching judgments on the wrongs of merchants and their trade than other knowledgeable merchants.”

After the Thirty Years’ War, France became the leader in commercial law. A general commercial code known as Ordonnance du commerce was developed in 1673 under Louis XIV and his finance minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert. It served as the foundation for the Code de commerce, which was introduced in 1807 under Napoleon and was operative in France, Poland, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and parts of Germany such as Rhenish Hesse, the Palatinate region and Baden.

France had dedicated commercial judges as early as the 16th century, and it transferred this fixture to Germany during the Napoleonic occupation.

The first German commercial court was set up in Nuremberg in 1804. A lawyer and two merchants presided over it, much like the commercial divisions of today. French commercial courts only employed merchants, so the practice of using two merchants and one lawyer, as in Nuremberg and Hamburg, was known as the “German system”. France has since adopted the German approach.

The General German Commercial Code (Allgemeines Deutsches Handelsgesetzbuch) was introduced in certain lands such as Prussia and Austria on the recommendation of the Federal Convention of the German Confederation in 1861. It became law in the North German Confederation in 1869, and across the Empire in 1871. Article 3 of the Code provided for the option of a special commercial court by stating that in the absence of a special commercial court, cases should be referred to the “ordinary” court.

Even before the Judicature Act (Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz, 1879) there was a trans-border supreme appeal court for commercial matters that constituted a step towards full legal unity in Germany. This federal supreme commercial court (Bundesoberhandelsgericht) for the North German Confederation opened on 5 August 1870 in Leipzig. When the German Empire was established one year later, the court became known as the imperial supreme commercial court (Reichsoberhandelsgericht).

When the Judicature Act entered into force in 1879, the imperial supreme commercial court was incorporated into the imperial court (Reichsgericht).

No major changes have been made to the regulations for the commercial divisions since 1909.

Source: Taken from a talk given by Eberhard Kramer, President of the Regional Court of Frankfurt am Main, on 17 October 2002.

Historical documents

1921 - 1933

Commercial judges of Berlin 1921-1933
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4 January 1951

Commercial judges start the first of the informal monthly meetings (Stammtischrunde) after WWII
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20 October 1951

Association is re-established on 4 October 1951
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14 November 1951

All commercial judges become members of the association
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24 December 1951

Commercial class is purged of negative elements
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2 January 1952

Protecting the administration of justice: leaders who were members of the National Socialist party are dismissed
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14 January 1952

Executive board member of BHI (Bank für Handel und Industrie AG) joins association of commercial judges
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7 February 1952

Search for members, association assets and treasurer of Berlin commercial judges association
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20 March 1952

Report from ceremony to re-establish the association in 1952
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2 August 1952

Letter to FDP party in Berlin regarding honorary nature of association
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22 August 1952

Invitation to monthly meeting
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10 June 1953

First list of members after 1945, with 41 people including executive of Siemens & Halske AG
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20 May 1954

Request for leave and approval by court
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28 July 1954

Invitation to monthly meeting in Gutshaus Steglitz manor house
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20 October 1954

Statement by association regarding appointment
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3 December 1954

The association’s relationship to West Germany
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1933-1939

Former chair Max Hensel 1933-1939
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