The Bundesverfassungsgericht, Marx and Reality

Andreas Voßkuhle, the president of the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) revealed in a lecture that the court takes a Marxist approach to reality. 

„I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal”, he said, quoting Groucho MarxNot Karl. The quote comes in the context of his court’s willingness to roll up its sleeves, look at facts and take evidence itself, rather than leaving it to the lower courts. Voßkuhle conceeds that he is more interested in the law, and quite happy that in the main, he can stay away from the facts. But if it can not be avoided, then of course he would deal with reality.

Voßkuhle’s attitude and Groucho’s statement may hold true more widely for German judges – in general, they are not too keen on the facts and tend to zoom in on the legal issues – on what factual basis, you might ask…. An American lawyer friend once described the French litigation approach as “bordering on fact avoidance”. And on some occasions, I felt the same here in Germany. But at least Voßkuhle knows his Marx, and being aware of the issue is at least something.


Andreas Voßkuhle, The Lawyer and the Federal Constitutional Court – Current challenges in constitutional jurisprudence (Der Rechtsanwalt und das Bundesverfassungsgericht – Aktuelle Herausforderungen der Verfassungsrechtsprechung), NJW 2013, 1329; edited version of a lecture delivered on January 25, 2013 at the 19th Verwaltungsgerichtlichen Jahresarbeitstagung organized by Deutsches Anwaltsinstituts e. V. in Leipzig.

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