First Woman President of the Federal Supreme Court

As of today, Bettina Limperg is the first woman president of the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof) in the court’s history. Since 1950, eight men had held the office.


Bettina Limperg was born in Wuppertal in 1960. Her career is fairly typical for judges in high offices, in particular the secondment as a “clerk” to one of the higher courts in Germany. If you look at the CVs of other federal judges, you will often find these types of secondment, and a mix of judicial and administrative experience, often first gained at a smaller court before promotion to a larger court. As President Limperg rose through the ranks of the judiciary in Baden-Württemberg, her experience also included time spent in the public prosecutor’s office, as is common in some federal states, primarily in the South. There, law graduates joining the judiciary traditionally first serve as prosecutors (Staatsanwalt).

After obtaining her law degree at Freiburg University and passing the second state exam, President Limperg joined the judiciary in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Between 1989 and 1992, she held positions as a public prosecutor (Staatsanwalt), judge at the Local Court  (Amtsgericht) and the District Court (Landgericht) Stuttgart, before being appointed a life judge at the Stuttgart District Court. From 1994 to 1995 she was seconded to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) as a “clerk” to Judge  Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde. Judges at the highest German courts do not have clerks in the way US judges have. Instead promising young judges are seconded as research associates (wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter) and perform, as far as I can see, pretty much the same job a law clerk of a federal judge in the US would.

President Limperg’s then career the progressed upon her return to Stuttgart at the District Court, where she was assigned administrative functions (Präsidialrichterin). In 2001, she was promoted to the Stuttgart Court of Appeals (Oberlandesgericht), where she continued to combine judicial and administrative functions.  In 2004, she became the Director of the Local Court Waiblingen, and in June 2009 Vice President of the Stuttgart District Court. Since 2011 she had served as the highest-ranking civil servant (Amtschefin des Justizministeriums) in the Ministry of Justice in Baden-Württemberg.

The Federal Surpeme Court does not give away anything private about President Limperg, other than that she is married and has two children.

The Federal Supreme Court’s website contains an English language summary of the previous president’s bios.*

* You will note that the Court itself uses the English term Federal Court of Justice to translate Bundesgerichtshof, and Higher Regional Court for Oberlandesgericht, whereas I use the terms Federal Supreme Court and Court of Appeals, respectively.

The photo shows Bettina Limperg (center), Uta-Maria Kuder, Minister of Justice in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (CDU, right) and Heiko Maas, Federal Minister of Justice (SPD, left). © Ecki Raff via the Federal Ministry’s press office.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eight − = 3

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.