A little under a year ago, we reported that the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) had issued an injunction that stopped the Munich Public Prosecution Office (Staatsanwaltschaft München) to look into and use the documents it seized at the Munich offices of law firm Jones Day. A quick recap of the facts:
Jones Day has acted as counsel to Volkswagen in the diesel emissions matter since September 2015. It carried out an internal investigation, interviewing more than 700 Volkswagen staff, primarily in the context of criminal proceedings against Volkswagen in the United States. In March 2017, the Public Prosecution Office obtained a seizure order for the Jones Day offices in Munich and secured extensive documentation that stemmed from the internal investigation.
In July 2017, the Federal Constitutional Court ordered the Public Prosecution Office (Staatsanwaltschaft) München not to make use of the documents it seized and to have the documents put in custody with the Local Court (Amtsgericht) München, while the Federal Constitutional Court was considering the constitutional complaints (Verfassungsbeschwerden) filed by Volkswagen, Jones Day, and individual Jones Day lawyers. Today, shortly before the expiry of the second extension period, the court has dismissed all constitutional complaints.
The Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has held that a court’s failure to avail itself of the tools of international judicial co-operation can amount to a violation of the party’s right to effective judicial protection (Recht auf effektiven Rechtsschutz).
The decision was made in a family law matter, where the existence and validity of an adoption in Romania was in dispute. In the proceedings before the Local Court (Amtsgericht) Frankfurt am Main, the aggrieved party had been unable to produce the underlying Romanian files, but had submitted communication from the respective Romanian authority, that a request from a German court to be granted access to the files would be entertained.
The local court, however, did not attempt to get hold of these files. Its failure to use “institutionalised facilities and measures of judicial assistance”, in particular those offered by the European Evidence Regulation and the European Judicial Network in Civil and Commercial Matters, in the circumstances of the case rendered its decision unconstitutional. Continue reading
We have written here before about Germany’s legislative attempts to speed up the courts, and on the first case awarding damages for excessive delays. Continue reading
Lower courts may have to refer questions of law to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) in Karlsruhe, as a matter of German constitutional law, or to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, as a matter of European law, to obtain a binding interpretation of that particular question of law. But nowadays, with national and European law being closely intertwined, it may not be so easy to tell where to send your questions to. Continue reading