Fri, Dec. 12, 2008

Nazis and Free Speech

AK - Washington.   A preliminary injunction barring the publication of a satirical piece in the satire paper Rüsselsheimer Echo mocked the city of Rüsselsheim for two recent Nazi demonstrations--held there after a court ordered it to tolerate them--and its alleged openess to such events, was lifted on December 8, 2008.

The District Court Darmstadt had found the article defamatory and not entitled to constituational free speech protection, granting Rüsselsheim's move for injunctive relief. The Court of Appeals in Frankfurt disagreed in the matter 22 U 23/08. It held the article to be clearly satirical and, therefore, an expression of opinion rather than a factual statement of a misleading nature.

The case goes to the heart of German constitutional law. In deciding whether statements are constitutionally protected, the most important distinction is whether they constitute factual allegations or simple personal judgments without a claim of truthfulness. While the latter are generally protected as free speech, factual allegations have to be accurate to enjoy constitutional protection.

Laptops Enjoined

CK - Washington   A court may keep laptops out of the courtroom, the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe ruled on December 11, 2008 in the matter 1 BvQ 47/08. A journalist sought mandamus on the grounds that the criminal matter is of substantial public interest.

The constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the press would outweigh ministerial concerns the lower court had raised. The Supreme Court disagreed, in part because of the PC's ability to record video and audio. Notetaking, as needed by the press, can be accomplished with pen and paper.

The restriction imposed is marginal while the potential for violations of housekeeping rules in the statute on the constitution of the courts, §168 Gerichtsverfassungsgesetz, is great, the high court held.

Berlin Accords, a Diplomatic Effort

CK - Washington.   Germany, the United States, six other sovereigns, an international organization and many German businesses concluded the Joint Statement of the Berlin Accords on claims for slave labor and reparations on July 17, 2000.

As a result, it constitutes a diplomatic effort that justifies its review under treaty law as opposed to federal common law in litigation over the disputed enforcement by private parties of interest payments due under the terms of the statement, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit determined in Elly Gross et al. v. The German Foundation Industrial Initiative et al., docket number 07-3726, on December 10, 2008.

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