Constitutional Court ruling: Headscarf ban allowed for trainee lawyers

Legal trainees are still not allowed to wear a headscarf in their practical training. In its decision, the Federal Constitutional Court referred to the institution’s religious neutrality.

Legislators can prohibit Muslim legal clerks from wearing a headscarf during their practical training in the courtroom. The decision for a duty to be neutral in ideological-religious terms was to be respected, that decided Federal Constitutional Court in one case from Hessen. The decision was published in Karlsruhe on Thursday. On headscarf ban is therefore not mandatory. (Az. 2 BvR 1333/17)

A German-Moroccan woman born in Frankfurt had sued. She started her legal preparatory service in January 2017. In Hesse, trainee lawyers can do their training with a headscarf. However, they are not allowed to carry out activities in which they can be represented as representatives of the judiciary or the state. This means, for example, that they are not allowed to pursue negotiations like the other trainee lawyers from the judge’s bench, but have to sit in the audience. You are also not allowed to lead meetings or take evidence.

The applicant’s freedom of belief

In contrast, the woman, born in 1982, first lodged a complaint in vain and then brought an action before the administrative courts. Finally, it was enough constitutional complaint one – in the end without success.

The ban interfered with the applicant’s freedom of belief, the judges decided. However, this is justified by other constitutional goods – such as the state’s obligation to religious neutrality and the proper functioning of the administration of justice. Unlike at school, for example, the state has a classic sovereign attitude towards the citizen in the judiciary. The ban is not mandatory for the judges. None of the competing legal positions is of paramount importance.

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Some federal states such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Berlin have similar regulations. In other countries, the question is not settled at all, because the problem either never occurred or because a friendly solution was found in individual cases.

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