Reichskammergericht

The Reichskammergericht (German: [ˈʁaɪçs.kamɐɡəˌʁɪçt]; German for 'Imperial Chamber Court'; Latin: Iudicium imperii) was one of the two highest judicial institutions in the Holy Roman Empire, the other one being the Aulic Council in Vienna. It was founded in 1495 by the Imperial Diet in Worms. All legal proceedings in the Holy Roman Empire could be brought to the Imperial Chamber Court, except if the ruler of the territory had a so-called privilegium de non appellando, in which case the highest judicial institution was found by the ruler of that territory. Another exception was criminal law in which the Imperial Chamber Court could intervene only if basic procedural rules had been violated.

Session of the Imperial Chamber Court in Wetzlar, 1750

The Imperial Chamber Court was infamous for the long time that it took to reach a verdict. Some proceedings, especially in lawsuits between different states of the Empire, took several hundred years. Some of the lawsuits had not been brought to an end when it was dissolved in 1806 following the downfall of the Holy Roman Empire.[1] However, it has late been discovered that it could often be attributed to a loss of interest on the part of the parties involved, and that the court was sometimes much more efficient than previously thought. Sometimes, the court even ordered injunctions within a few days.

Recent research has also brought to light that especially in the 18th century, the rulings of the court anticipated in many ways the constitutional establishment of civil liberties in Germany. For instance, the inviolability of one's housing or freedom of trade was legally introduced in the Empire by rulings of the court. In the late 18th century, some contemporaries even compared the Imperial Chamber Court to the National Assembly in Revolutionary France.


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