The organisation of the various business areas within the Justice System of North Rhine-Westphalia lies mainly in the hands of the regional authorities. The plurality of the different areas such as, e.g. the Higher Regional Court and the Superior Administrative Court makes it clear which broad spectrum the justice system in North Rhine-Westphalia covers.
Higher Regional Courts, District Courts and Local Courts
An important and large area within the justice system is the civil jurisdiction. This deals with, amongst other things, all private law disputes, that is disputes between private persons such as tenants and landlords, buyers and sellers, etc. These proceedings are called civil actions. The regular courts are also responsible for criminal actions and for proceedings of "voluntary jurisdiction": These are, for example, proceedings in accordance with the guardianship act, the probate of a will, disputes in accordance with the ownership of property act, or for example, the areas of enforcement and compulsory auction sale. In the Land North Rhine-Westphalia there are three Higher Regional Courts in Hamm, Düsseldorf and Cologne. As regional authorities, they fulfil the judicature and judicial administration tasks for 19 District Courts and 129 Local Courts.
Higher Administrative Court and Administrative Courts
In the three-tiered structure of the administrative judicature (administrative courts, higher administrative court, federal administrative court) the administrative court is responsible for decisions regarding claims and other applications which concern administrative disputes. The higher administrative court as court of appeal is responsible for decisions concerning appeals against judgements by the administrative courts, as well as complaints against other administrative court decisions. In North Rhine-Westphalia there are 7 administrative courts - in Aachen, Arnsberg, Düsseldorf, Gelsenkirchen, Cologne, Minden and Münster, as well as the higher administrative court for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in Münster.
The fiscal jurisdiction of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia was set up in 1949 and is characterised by a two-tiered structure (Finance Courts, Federal Finance Court (Bundesfinanzhof) in Munich). There are three Finance Courts - in Düsseldorf, Cologne and Münster. The duty of the Finance Courts is to guarantee legal protection in tax, customs and child allowance matters.
Higher Social Court and Social Courts
The social judicature deals with all matters of social law. Its courts control the legality of the decisions of most social administrations. Therefore their main purpose serves the protection of citizens' social rights. The focus of their work lies in the area of legal disputes about social benefits. The Higher Social Court is located in Essen and the Social Courts are in Aachen, Detmold, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Duisburg, Gelsenkirchen, Cologne and Münster.
Higher Labour Courts and Labour Courts
The jurisdiction in labour disputes is responsible for the administration of justice in the area of labour issues. Retrenchments, payroll or joint management rights can lead to disputes between employer and employee. In these cases the conflict cannot always be solved in personal discussions or with inclusion of the responsible trade union or associations. If a peaceful agreement cannot be reached it is possible to call in the tribunal for labour disputes. The jurisdiction in labour disputes is a separate jurisdiction and independent of civil jurisprudence. In addition to the three Higher Labour Courts in Düsseldorf, Hamm and Cologne there are 30 Labour Courts as courts of the first instance.
Public Prosecutors General and Public Prosecutor's Offices
The duty of Public Prosecutors is, in particular, to prosecute criminal acts and lead the pertinent investigations, and to carry these out with the help of other law enforcement offices, in particular the police. There are three Public Prosecutors General in the Land North Rhine-Westphalia - corresponding with the Higher Regional Courts - in Düsseldorf, Hamm and Cologne. The Public Prosecutors General are responsible for the professional and expert supervision of a total of 19 public prosecutor's offices of their respective district.
State Law Enforcement Office and Penal Institutions
There are 36 penal institutions within the law enforcement of the Land North Rhine-Westphalia, as well as 9 associated branch institutions, 23 external institutions and the law enforcement school in Wuppertal. The legal order and goal of law enforcement commonly titled as "resocialisation" as the main duty of law enforcement is given by sentence 1 of § 2 of the Law Enforcement Act: "While serving the prison sentence, the prisoner is to become capable of leading a life in social responsibility without crimes (law enforcement goal)." Enforcement of the prison sentence should also serve to protect the general public from further crimes.