The Federal Constitutional Court is both a court and a constitutional organ. It consists of two Senates, each of them with eight Justices. The President and the Vice-President are the chairpersons of the Senates. Each Senate has its own, precisely defined competences, but always decides as “the Federal Constitutional Court”. Which of the two Senates is competent to decide follows from the Federal Constitutional Court Act and a decision taken by the Plenary –that is, a decision taken jointly by all the 16 Justices. In rare cases, the Plenary decides a case itself; this is mandated if one Senate intends to deviate from the other Senate’s interpretation of the law.
As a constitutional organ – and unlike the regular courts – the Federal Constitutional Court is not subject to the administrative supervision of a ministry. The Plenary decides on basic organisational issues; the Budget and Staff Committee, which is appointed by the Plenary, prepares the draft budget of approximately EUR 28 million per year. The President heads the administration of the Court and represents it externally.
The workload of the Court is high. In particular, it receives more than 6,000 constitutional complaints every year. In order to deal with this high number of new proceedings, both Senates form three-member Chambers. These usually decide cases which have no fundamental constitutional significance – approximately 99 per cent of proceedings.
Each Justice is assisted by four judicial clerks who have prior work experience in regular courts, public authorities, law firms or universities. The Court also has a library of about 400,000 books, journals, and data bases. Moreover, the high workload of the Court would be impossible to manage without the Rechtspfleger (senior judicial officers), and the staff working in the registries, the Justices’ outer offices, the Court Office, the administration, the library, and IT. Overall, about 260 people ensure that the Federal Constitutional Court can fulfil its duties.
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