Legal aid in Germany
German answers to the
Questionnaire on legal aid
Conference in Palermo on 12th and 13th November 2009
from Werner Heermann
I./ Procedural aspects
1./ Who decides whether legal aid is granted to a party?The court, where the case is pending.
2./ Is it possible to challenge this decision? Yes
3./ Is it possible to obtain legal aid already during the administrative procedure? No
4./ Is legal aid valid for the whole procedure, legal remedies included or is decided separately for each level of the law suit? For the instance only
5./ Do applications for legal aid have any impact on the course of the procedure, in particular on the run out of time limits (f.e. for legal remedies)?
Time limits for lodging the appeal are interrupted.
II./ Prerequisites for legal aid
1./ Financial means
a./ Are there thresholds concerning income ruled by law or by court practice?
Yes, by law
b./ Are there also such thresholds for real estates and other values?
Yes, but there are restrictions
c./ Are there special rules for legal entities (societies, associations)?
Yes, there are rules to avoid that associations lodge an appeal, the members of which can afford the costs.
2./ Is the possible outcome of the case of relevance for granting legal aid?
Yes, the legal remedy must not deem unsuccessful.
3./ Are there other criteria for granting or refusing legal aid?
1./ What kinds of costs are covered by legal aid?
a./ Court fees
b./ Costs of witnesses, interpreters and experts
c./ The party’s travel expenses
d./ Advocates or other representatives
d.a./ Under which conditions are advocates or other representatives at the disposal of the beneficiary in order to represent him in the lawsuit?
They must agree.
d.b./ How are these advocates or other representatives selected? Has the party any influence in this selection procedure?
Yes. The party nominates the lawyer itself.
d.c./ Who covers the costs for these advocates or other representatives?
The State, if legal aid is granted. The compensation is limited on the legal rates provided by the advocate fees law.
e./ Has legal aid an influence on the obligation of the beneficiary to refund certain expenses of opposing parties if he finally looses the case?
IV./ Can legal aid be revoked?
1./ Under which conditions is it possible to revoke legal aid?
The State has the right of appeal, if legal aid is granted.
2./ Can it be revoked even retroactively and can recovery of the state’s expenses be ordered? No Which are the conditions for such a decision? ---
3./ Are there time limits for such decisions? ---
V./ Practical importance of legal aid
1./ What is the percentage of cases with legal aid in general?
In “classical cases” (apart from asylum) legal aid is not often (maybe 2 %) wanted and in practise it is nearly never granted.
2./ Are there any scopes of administrative law where legal aid is of special importance? What is the percentage of cases with legal aid in these particular fields of administrative law?
In asylum cases application for legal aid is usual. Legal aid is sometimes granted, but often only partly. The percentage depends on the state of origin of the claimant. All in all the percentage will not exceed 5 %.