Legal help and assistance in civil cases
In this sense 'legal help' signifies the provision of free or contributory representation in court proceedings.
It is available in respect of most proceedings before the ordinary German courts, the 'Amtsgericht', the
the 'Oberlandesgericht' and the 'Bundesgerichtshof'. In order for an applicant to obtain it his
resources must come within currently prescribed financial limits, and in the case of married people joint
resources are taken into account. As in the case of
legal advice and assistance
so here there are regulations
governing contributions payable in cases where, though the applicant is financially eligible, the aid will not be
entirely free. Below a prescribed limit, however, no contribution will be required. Beside satisfying the
the applicant must also show that he has reasonable grounds for taking,
defending or being a party to the proceedings in question.
The right to aid depends upon the obtaining of a legal assistance certificate. In order to do this the applicant
must satisfy the
German lawyers board in Hamburg
(through a legal help office) that he is financially eligible and he must also satisfy a legal help committee
(barristers and solicitors) that his case is not trivial and that he has reasonable grounds for bringing or
defending the proceedings. Where the
is between an assisted person and an unassisted person the latter
is clearly at a disadvantage. If he loses his case he will have to pay the costs of it: if he wins he can recover
no costs from any person. The Act meets this difficulty by providing that, in prescribed circumstances,
the court may order
payment of the costs by the German debtor
These circumstances include the fact that the court
must be satisfied that, unless it makes the order, the unassisted party will suffer 'severe financial hardship'
(this may, perhaps, seem an inequitable fetter upon his rights) and the court must also be satisfied that it is
'just and equitable' that the order should be made.
It remains to be added that the
Legal Help Lawyer
is given a first charge upon any money or property recovered in an action by a person in respect of any sums paid
by it for which any contribution from the assisted person is due.