Thispaper will make a comparison of the American justice system with theGermany legal system. Germany is a civil law country with codifiedrules specified for all citizens, and thus, everyone has a clearknowledge of the rules and judges easily enforced them. The Germanyjudicial system is divided into three court systems that include thespecialized courts that deal with administrative issues, the ordinarycourts that deal with criminal as well as civil cases, and theconstitutional courts that handle judicial review and interpretationof the constitution. In comparison, the United States of America isregarded as the most complex globally and composed of two systemsthe federal court system, which deals with issues granted powers bythe US Constitution either expressly or implicitly, and the statecourt system that vary from one state to another. The United Stateshave a common law legal system where legislative bodies usually enactlegal rules that are less specific and for this reason, both thecourts and the judges have a considerable power to interpret therules based on precedent and other factors (Dammer & Albanese,2014).
Thefirst main difference between the two legal systems is how the law isinterpreted. While the American jurisprudence relies heavily onprecedence, the Germany system uses the civil law, which is based ondetailed legal codes and application of facts to the laws. TheAmerican judiciary is tasked with the essential role of interpretingthe law and applying it to specific situations. The Supreme Courtjudges selection and their appointment is the constitutional role ofthe president while the state level appointments is done eitherthrough contested election, gubernatorial appointment, legislativeappointment or commission-based appointment. The US judges rotatefrom one court to the other, thus not specialized in one kind of law.However, judges in Germany are professional and specialized in onlyone kind of law, thus only serve on that type of court all throughtheir careers. In Germany there exist no duality among the state andthe federal courts and areas of jurisdiction are kept separate witheach court system having its own supreme court (Dammer &Albanese, 2014).
InAmerica, separate civil courts are responsible for legal disputesbetween private individuals while criminal courts are responsible fordealing with criminal prosecutions by the state against individuals. The law enforcement agencies in America learn about a criminal fromreport from other citizens, discovery or investigative work. Anidentified suspect is arrested once the police establish a committedcriminal activity and the case proceed through the criminal system.The police then present the necessary information to the prosecutorregarding the accused to determine whether there are formal chargesor not. If no formal charges are filed, then the accused is released,but if there are charges, then the accused is taken before a judge ormagistrate for trial.
InGermany, once a criminal offense is discovered the case proceeds tothe public prosecution office tasked with pre-trial investigations inorder to decide if formal indictment is necessary. If the prosecutorfinds the suspect and sufficient evidence, then the case is taken tothe appropriate court in order to start a criminal trial. There areno jury trials in Germany, but the presiding judge determines if theavailable presented evidence warrants a trial. In certain cases,judges are helped to make decisions by common citizens with orwithout any legal background but chosen to serve for a limited periodin the court. There is a huge contrast where in the US system thejudge is usually not familiar or has little knowledge of the facts ofa given case until evidence is presented in the courts. In addition,German trials do not contain the formal pleas of guilty or notguilty. Police and prosecution in both legal systems show a majordifference where the American prosecutor has little control overinvestigations by police, but nearly unlimited discretion todetermine whether a certain crime should be charged. In Germany, theprosecutor is tasked with a formal responsibility to investigate andthe police is only considered a subordinate agency (Dammer &Albanese, 2014).
Dueto increased criminal activities and terrorism, Germany police worktogether with other countries near their borders, in addition tohaving signed bilateral agreements on police operations. Cross-border cooperation is done according to the law of the hostingnation and police usually act under the local authority. Conversely,the US is well known for its historical domination of internationalpolicing and has additional American police sent on foreign missionsin addition to having signed more bilateral treaties in lawenforcement compared to any other country (Koenig, Das, &International Police Executive Symposium, 2001).
Inconclusion, the German justice system sharply contrasts with theAmerican system in various significant ways. An overview of the legalsystem in Germany shows that the legislative powers of the federalstate are divided between the federal government and each individualstate in the nation. Germany has a single criminal code and a unifiedlegal system and thus a civil justice with clear merits. On the otherhand, common law courts in America rely on judicial precedents toapply and interpret the law, and for this reason, there are somelessons the American justice system can learn from the German system.
Dammer,H. R., & Albanese, J. S. (2014). Comparativecriminal justice systems.Belmont,CA, USA : Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Koenig,D. J., Das, D. K., & International Police Executive Symposium.(2001). Internationalpolice cooperation: A world perspective.Lanham, Md: Lexington Books.