District Court

District Court / Amtsgericht (AG)

December 14, 2022

The district court is the first instance of ordinary jurisdiction in Germany. This means that it is usually the first and lowest point of contact for civil and criminal law matters. The court has jurisdiction up to an amount in dispute of EUR 5,000, but also independently in special cases such as tenancy disputes, cf. section 23 of the Courts Constitution Act (GVG). Jurisdiction in criminal cases exists if a higher court does not have jurisdiction (section 24 GVG). One of the factors to be taken into account is whether a custodial sentence of more than four years is to be expected. The next higher instance is the Regional Court by way of appeal or the Higher Regional Court by way of a jump appeal.

The decisions of the district court (Landgericht (LG)) are generally made by single judges or judicial officers, with units and departments being formed for the individual subject areas.


Ordinary jurisdiction is divided into contentious jurisdiction, voluntary jurisdiction and criminal jurisdiction. When parties dispute a claim under civil law before a judge, this is described as contentious jurisdiction. The departments of the district court that belong to contentious jurisdiction are the dunning court, the enforcement court, the trial court and the family court. Voluntary jurisdiction is to be distinguished from this. This includes civil matters that are not decided according to the Code of Civil Procedure (ZPO), but according to the Act on Proceedings in Family Matters and in Matters of Voluntary Jurisdiction (FamFG), such as probate or partition matters (section 23a (2) GVG). Criminal jurisdiction is exercised by the criminal judge (section 25 GVG) or, if such a judge does not rule, by the court of lay assessors (section 28 GVG).