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This is a very topical issue for some people in Heilbronn, because the election of the lay judges for the 2024-2028 financial years is pending; the term of office for lay judges is five calendar years. As chairman of the Free Voters, I'm a little bit involved and believe that I can have a say. On the one hand, my father was a lay judge at Heilbronn courts for decades and I myself was a lay judge at a military service court.
Lay judges are honorary judges who participate in the main proceedings of criminal trials. Lay judges are used in the local court, in the regional court and, as mentioned above, also in the troop service courts. The lay court of the district court consists of one professional judge and two lay judges, in the large criminal chamber of the regional court two lay judges work alongside three professional judges. The lay judges are equal to the judge. If you would like to find out more about the use of lay judges in military service courts, I would refer you to Section 74 of the Military Disciplinary Code. The most important regulations for all lay judges can be found in the German Judges Act and the Courts Constitution Act.
The original idea behind the lay judges is to strengthen the trust of the citizens in the judiciary through their participation in court proceedings and to achieve a case law that is as realistic as possible.
The procedure for appointing lay judges is regulated in the Courts Constitution Act (§ 31-38) and is implemented in Heilbronn as follows:
The jury is elected in a two-stage process. First, a list of proposals must be drawn up, which contains at least twice as many people as there are to be elected lay judges, and which is to be decided by the municipal council. The local court then combines the suggested lists of all municipalities in the judicial district into a uniform list. In late summer 2023, a lay judge election committee will then select the required number of lay judges for both the district and regional courts from the list of proposals.
It is not yet known how many people are to be included in the current Heilbronn list of proposals. The figure is determined by the President of the District Court and communicated within a timeframe specified by law. At the last jury election, at least 101 people had to be nominated. In line with previous practice, half are to be nominated by the parties and groups represented on the municipal council. The respective share is calculated from the current distribution of seats in the municipal council using the Sainte-Lague/Schepers method. Appropriate requests are made to the following institutions for naming the second half: Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Chamber of Crafts, German Trade Union Confederation, Evangelical and Catholic Church and all the knowledgeable residents of the Advisory Board for Participation and Integration.
If too few proposals are submitted from the municipal council and from the institutions [by February 27, 2023], a public call for applications from the citizenship will be made in March.City of Heilbronn, January 16, 2023
The free voters have now drawn up their list of proposals. We will now obtain the necessary signatures and then share our proposals with the city administration.