The Higher Regional Court Hamm is one of three Higher Regional Courts in the state North Rhine Westphalia; the other two are located in Düsseldorf and Cologne. The Higher Regional Court Hamm represents, with a workload of 18,000 cases per year (civil law, family law and criminal law related), the largest of all 24 Higher Regional Courts Germany wide. All Higher Regional Courts are part of the so-called “ordinary justice”.
"Ordinary Courts" exercise their jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases on four levels: Municipal Courts (Amtsgerichte), District Courts (Landgerichte), Higher Regional Courts (Oberlandesgerichte) and the Federal Supreme Court (Bundesgerichtshof). Labour Courts (Arbeitsgerichte), Finance Courts (Finanzgerichte), Administrative Courts (Verwaltungsgerichte) and Social Courts (Sozialgerichte) are not part of the ordinary justice; they belong to the so-called specialized justice (“Fachgerichtsbarkeit”).
Instance on appeal
The Higher Regional Court exercises its jurisdiction almost exclusively as Court of Appeal, i.e. as second or third instance in cases which started at Municipal or District Court level. 10 District Courts and 77 Municipal Courts are located within the territorial jurisdiction of the Higher Regional Court Hamm (as of 1 January 2016).
Civil Divisions (Zivilabteilungen)
35 Civil Senates (“Zivilsenate”) decide on appeals and complaints lodged against judgments and rulings issued within the whole range of civil law at first instance by a District Court. The different fields of civil law are assigned to one or more Senates. The Higher Regional Court acts as higher instance of appeal when decisions on appeal, issued by a District Court as Court of second instance in cases of non-contentious proceedings (Freiwillige Gerichtsbarkeit”), are appealed.
Family Divisions (Familienabteilungen)
11 Family Senates (“Familiensenate”) decide upon appeals filed against first instance decisions issued by a Municipal Court as Family Court (“Familiengericht”) in all family law related cases such as divorce cases, child custody, maintenance and others.
Criminal Divisions (Strafabteilungen)
5 Criminal Senates (“Strafsenate”) decide upon appeals on legal grounds against judgments issued in criminal cases by a District Court as second instance Court, and upon complaints filed against rulings and other decisions issued by the criminal panels and conditional release panels of a District Court. In addition they decide upon appeals on legal grounds lodged against decisions issued by a Municipal Court in minor offence cases.
Composition of the panels
The Senates at the Higher Regional Court are usually composed of three professional judges (one presiding judge and two panel members). The composition of the panels as well as the subject matters of their jurisdiction are pre-determined in the case allocation system (“Geschäftsverteilungsplan”) which is reviewed every year in advance by a committee called “Präsidium”.