Aldermen (historical)

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A lay judge (from Old High German sceffino or scaffin , the arranger; Middle High German Scheffe or Schepfe ) or Schöppe was a person in the high and late Middle Ages and in the early modern period who had tasks in the judiciary , but also - since there was no judicial and executive power at that time were separated - was entrusted with administrative tasks.



Originally, dispute settlement and legal finding were a matter for the entire village or an entire region. All men of legal age had to take part in the regular meetings ( Thing ) . With increasing social differentiation, it was more difficult for some than for others to comply. This also led to a differentiation of those who actually took part in the meetings. The term “Schöffe” / sceffino has been used since the end of the 8th century and replaced the term “rachineburgius”, which was the same in the matter. Charlemagne institutionalized this in a series of capitularies : No longer the entire judicial community, but only seven lay judges were supposed to rule. In doing so, he centralized the legitimation of the judicial proceedings by making the activities of the lay judges, who had previously been legitimized by the judicial community, agents of the crown. The activity of the lay judge thus became the lay judge's office . At the same time, he marginalized the role of the counts or mayors in court proceedings, who were now only responsible for managing the proceedings. It was the job of the lay judges in the court proceedings to answer questions that the judge asked them about the present case. The lay judges pronounced the verdict, but were also able to reassure themselves with the assembled judicial community. The more lavish job as a lay judge could only be afforded by someone who was economically well off. In addition, lay judges' ordinances demanded that lay judges should be of legal age, "wise", godly, strong in character and blameless. At the village, urban or regional level it was also necessary that the aldermen had property there and lived there.

Carolingian successor states

These jurors based court system continued in the successor states of the Carolingian Empire and beyond - as in England - by. It was also a model for the organization of the courts on different levels: local village courts, regional central courts and Reichshofgericht were formed according to this model. In the course of time, the number of lay judges changed in individual courts: there were often 12, but also 14 or 24 or a different number of lay judges was possible due to local or regional peculiarities. In some cases, aldermen's committees could complement each other through co-optation ; in some cases, this required the agreement of the respective authorities. Whoever was chosen as lay judge was obliged to take office. Aldermen were committed by a solemn oath. In addition to their primary activity in the disputed jurisdiction , lay judges also increasingly took on tasks of voluntary jurisdiction , such as the certification of documents and other public law tasks, such as market or forest supervision and in water and pasture matters.

The judges in the villages were mostly farmers. In the regional courts there was the Landschöppen (also called Amtslandschöppen , the names vary regionally). The office of lay judges could be tied to the possession of certain goods, such as the Amtslandschöppengüter or Saupengüter in the Saxon office of Rochlitz . These saupers could spread out over several villages, which then formed their own “judicial community” with their own saupe judge . The court lay judges in southern Hesse were released from taxes and compulsory labor.

The municipal lay judges' courts developed a special function: As the wealthier residents gathered in the lay judges' court, the lay judges' court developed into a municipal governing body alongside the mayor. This is how a lay judge's bank was created in some city councils , for example in Aachen , Cologne , Frankfurt am Main or Nuremberg . As a rule, these lay judges had no legal training until well into the 17th century .

Roman law

From the 15th century, the existing national court structures were replaced by Roman law . For the jury's courts, this meant that they were replaced by courts that were staffed with lawyers. This first happened at the highest level, in 1451 with the establishment of the Imperial Chamber Court and in France the Parlement de Paris . On the level below, the demand for a professional qualification, i.e. knowledge of Roman or codified law, began in the 16th century, but partly also in the form that the lay jury was retained, but now that the lay judges had one had the appropriate qualifications. Overall, however, the traditional lay judges' jurisdiction began to be displaced in favor of courts organized under Roman law. Only in villages and smaller towns did the jury hold up until the end of the Old Kingdom.

The office of lay judges, as it is still provided for in the criminal procedure codes of Germany and Austria, goes back to the political enlightenment in the 19th century and the emancipation of the bourgeoisie . The participation of non-lawyers in the judiciary should reduce the influence of the authorities . Ideally, honorary judges bring an understanding that is independent of purely legal thinking into the decision-making process and that should be more firmly rooted in real life. This modern form of lay judge's office has been partially withdrawn since its introduction, as court proceedings with “professionals” can be carried out more efficiently. In 1924, jury courts were abolished in Germany . Today the name of the jury has only a historical meaning. There are no longer any factual differences to the “normal” large criminal chamber of the regional court . The jury now has three professional judges and two lay judges. Jury members are no longer jurors . On the other hand, in the Anglo-Saxon legal system, the jury with 12 jurors is quite common in large-scale judicial proceedings.


Individual evidence

  1. Alderman, the. Duden , accessed on January 18, 2016 .
  2. a b c d HRG, Sp. 1467.
  3. HRG, Sp. 1463f.
  4. HRG, Sp. 1465f.
  5. HRG, Sp. 1464f.
  6. HRG, Sp. 1465.
  7. Property, occupation and official titles of Saxon farmers . Working group for Central German family research . March 23, 2008. Archived from the original on November 12, 2013. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved February 16, 2015. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  8. ^ Wilhelm Müller: Hessian book of place names . Ed .: Historical Commission for the People's State of Hesse. tape 1 - Starkenburg. Darmstadt 1973, OCLC 251560631 , p. 342 .
  9. Isenmann, p. 307, footnote 11