Ortsgericht Hessen

Here is a bizarre and untranslatable term: the Ortsgericht in Hessen (I think we write Hessen in English now, and no longer Hesse?) I think Saturday was the second time I’d heard of it. It consists of a number of unpaid persons, a bit like lay magistrates, who do exciting things like certifying signatures on holographic wills (I didn’t think that was necessary). Romain has ‘local court’ as a translation, but that doesn’t seem right, as it isn’t a court.

But Lister and Veth (see June 7th entry) do not let me down:

bq. local special court in Hessen (staffed by lay judges and with jurisdiction over certain unlitigated private law matters)

Creifelds defines it too, as a special court with a narrow range of tasks in non-contentious jursidiction. They only exist in Hessen now. Members are the Ortsgerichtsvorsteher and Ortsgerichtsschöffen. Here are some (in German): Habichtswald, Pfungstadt, and a more general description, with links to the statute and the fee scale.

7 thoughts on “Ortsgericht Hessen

  1. Averse but resigned to accepting that the term is untranslatable, I agree it’s not a court, but rather a (District Court) Registry for Non-Contentious Business.

    The ‘Probate & Central Wills Registry’ in London doesn’t perform the certifications function and the ‘Family Records Office’ for reporting deaths – prev. Registry of Births, Marriages and Deaths – is a separate institution.

    I also thought of the the UK Treasury Solicitor’s Department, but the ragbag of its functions is still too different from those performed by the Hessian creature.

  2. Maybe even lower down in the hierarchy? These people sound like magistrates. They seem to do (certify?) surveys of land too.

  3. Yes, lower down – maybe as far as (District) Land, Probate & Certifications Sub-Registrars. I’m loathe to call them magistrates when their functions seem to be mainly non-judicial and the Eng. term conjures up – apart from Stipes (Stipendiary Magistrates)- legally unqualified lay people.

  4. Perhaps we should stay away from Hessen.

    If it were solely for Britain, the word ‘tribunal’ comes to mind.

  5. Even the good idea of tribunal suggests adjudicatory functions, but in contentious business.

    I don’t want to open a can of worms, ha, ha, but I’m quite happy for genealogical reasons to keep to Hessen. My German relatives the Mehlmänner have, almost continuously according to my info., been in the ancient town of Worms for 600 years.

  6. I see ProZ has had a query about Ortsgerich:
    http://www.proz.com/?sp=h&id=328509

    The most popular suggested translation was local court, from Hamblock-Wessels. I don’t think that works, because it implies it’s part of the court system, and also because the Auswärtiges Amt wants people to use local court to ‘translate’ Amtsgericht. I doubt if Hamblock-Wessels even knew of the Hesse Ortsgericht.
    The Deutsches Rechts-Lexikon says:

    ‘O. sind Institute des hessischen Landesrechts…, die trotz der Bezeichnung keine Gerichte, sondern Hilfsbehörden der Justiz sind. Sie sind zuständig für Aufgaben der freiwilligen Gerichtsbarkeit, insbesondere Unterschriftsbeglaubigungen, und für Schätzungen, haben aber keine Befugnisse zur Streitentscheidung.’

    Perhaps something like ‘Ortsgericht (local certification / valuation office’.

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