University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The History Collection

Page View

Military government weekly information bulletin
Number 101 (July 1947)

New role in MG courts,   pp. 4-5 PDF (1.3 MB)

Page 4

IN those first months after guns
ceased firing in Germany, the job
of the Military Government courts
was protecting the occupation. Se-
curity was their watchword and their
consideration of cases was governed
by that viewpoint.
But today, MG courts are playing
a new role. Acting more as civil than
military courts, they now have the
thoughtful task of impressing upon
the German people the doctrine of the
rights and responsibilities of the in-
For too long, the people of Germany
have considered courts as a type of
paternal organization guided by the
grace of the sovereign. They did not
consider the law as their law giving
them rights and responsibilities. The
US doctrine that law is the exercise
of the sovereignty of the people
establishing rights and responsibilities
is still generally unknown to them.
MG officials see in the new role of
'the courts a way to demonstrate this
It is also an opportunity to show
the German people that the Laender
constitutions they have drawn up are
full of meaning. The   democratic
:rights and privileges stated in the
constitutions should to be protected
by the MG courts, and justice should
be meted out to all persons with
these democratic principles always in
Accomplishing this new task with
effectiveness requires time. Although
burdened with a great number of
cases, the judges nevertheless must
give studied consideration to each
case and they have had difficulty in
treating each one with the study
required. 'Present trends indicate that
the number of cases is increasing
rather than decreasing. In 1946, there
were a total of 159,536 cases tried. In
the first four months of 1947 there
were 48,197 cases brought before the
Military  Government   courts,  as
compared with 47,088 cases in the
first four months of 1946.
IT will be necessary, therefore, to
reduce the number of cases coming
before the MG courts. The courts
should not be burdened with trivial
cases and technical violations of the
law when the interest of Military
Government and public order is not
involved. Some cases could now be
heard by German courts and methods
of effectuating their transference are
under consideration.
Cases which might be transferred
include minor thefts, lack of proper
identification, and cases involving
ordinary police problems. As- a
general policy, cases should not be
transferred from MG to German
courts where the accused is before
the MG court because of his personal
status, such as being a UN national.
Land Directors should be given
discretion in the matter of determining
which cases falling within these
general classifications are to be trans-
ferred from one type of court to
another. Any arrangement for a
transfer of such cases is purely
administrative and will create no
right in an accused to have his case
tried in one court or another. The
determination of the court to try the
lase will remain in Military Govern-
ment. As a general rule, however,
cases involving violations of German
law by Germans should always be
tried in German courts.
A reduction in thie number of cases
and efficiency in their handling also
may   be  effected  through  closer
cooperation with the Constabulary
and the Provost Marshal. Members of
the Legal Divisiqn have taken part in
conferences with the Constabulary
giving information talks on such
subjects as arrest and the preparation
of cases for trial. Good investigation
and accumulation of relevant evidence
and its proper presentation saves
much time when the case comes to
When a case comes before a court
in the United States, the US judge
is the least informed person as to
the facts of that case. Under conti-'
nental law the judge is the most
informed person and must know in
advance the evidence to be in-
troduced so he can interrogate the
accused intelligently, for under conti-
nental law the judge examines the
witnesses. Procedure in MG courts has
combined these two systems. But
since  the  German 'lawyers   are
unaccustomed  to   our  procedure
whereby the lawyer conducts the
presentation of the evidence, an MG
court judge must be alert to see that
the rights of an accused are protected.
M ILITARY Government has three
types of courts in which to try
its cases: the Summary courts, with
one judge who has power to impose
sentence of one year or less and fines
not in excess of RM 10,000; the In-
termediate courts, with one to three
judges, who can impose any lawful
sentence except death or imprison-
ment not in excess of 10 years or
RM 100,000; and General courts, with
three or more judges, which may
impose any sentence including the
death sentence except that any death
sentence must be confirmed by the
Commander-in-Chief, European Com-
mand, or his designee. All cases are
subject to review by the Reviewing
Authority. In the US Zone and Berlin
Sector there are a total of 216 Sum-
mary, 38 Intermediate, and 11 General
MG courts.
14 JULY 1947

Go up to Top of Page