Association of commerial judges

Tasks of a commercial judge

A commercial judge holds an honorary position in the commercial divisions of the regional courts.

The commercial divisions (German: Kammern für Handelssachen) are a special jurisdiction for businesspeople that features a professional judge as senior judge and two honorary judges from the commercial community. Commercial judges have the same rights and duties as professional judges, and so they have the same voting rights. Like professional judges, they are neutral, independent, and required to uphold the secrecy of deliberations. Unlike a professional judge, however, a commercial judge is expected to assess a case based on his or her own particular professional qualifications and experience in business management. The purpose of the commercial divisions is to incorporate business expertise and experience in the court’s decision. This enables commercial judges to play a role in exercising their own commercial jurisdiction. Many senior judges in the commercial divisions like to select their associate judges according to their sector so as to derive maximum benefit from their business expertise. Unlike the civil divisions of the regional courts, the commercial divisions can reach verdicts using their knowledge of business practice as gained from personal experience and academic study – in other words, without seeking an expert opinion.

These honorary commercial judges are therefore not lay judges like aldermen, but specialised judges with specialist knowledge in business management.

Commercial judges perform their tasks in a black judge’s robe. They wear a white shirt with a white tie or bowtie.

To maintain a consistent appearance for the bench, all commercial judges are required to comply with this dress code.

The commercial divisions only have jurisdiction at the request of a plaintiff or defendant, and they only reach judgements in cases of a commercial nature. These include: commercial transactions; proceedings based on bills of exchange, cheques and documentary evidence; matters of industrial property protection; sales of businesses; maritime law; unfair competition; company law; complaints relating to commercial registers.

The legal expertise of the professional judge and the business expertise of the two commercial judges enable them to reach verdicts in matters of business law that are pragmatic and proper, and that show respect for standard commercial practices.

Like professional judges, commercial judges are required to uphold the secrecy of deliberations, to show moderation, and to maintain neutrality.