Cases of the first instance are tried by local or Landkreis courts and the superior courts in each of the Länder. The Federal Court of Justice in Karlsruhe, the court of last resort in regular civil and criminal cases, consists of members appointed by a committee that includes federal and Land ministers and several Bundestag members. A court of appeal and the several Land and Landkreis courts are subordinate to the Karlsruhe tribunal. Special courts handle administrative, labor, financial, and social welfare matters. The Federal Constitutional Court, the highest court in the land, has competence to decide problems concerning the Basic Law and to test the constitutionality of laws. The court has 16 members: one 8-member panel elected by a committee of the Bundestag, the other by the Bundesrat.
The judiciary is independent of the legislative and judicial branches and remains free from interference or intimidation. The Basic Law provides for the rights to a fair trial and prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence. The government authorities generally respect these prohibitions.