German Constitutional Court: Headscarf ban for trainee lawyers legal

The German Constitutional Court on Thursday backed the authorities in the state of Hesse in imposing a ban on the wearing of a headscarf by a trainee lawyer while on court duty.

The state authorities’ decision that there was an obligation to observe ideological and religious neutrality had to be respected, the court found. But it also ruled that a headscarf ban did not have to be enforced.

The case had been brought by a Frankfurt-born woman of Moroccan descent, who began her practical legal traineeship in January 2017.

While legal trainees in Hesse may wear a headscarf, they may not do any work where they are seen as representatives of the judiciary or of the state.

This implies that they may not follow court proceedings from the bench along with other trainees, but must sit with the spectators. They may also not conduct sessions or record evidence.

The woman, who was born in 1982, raised an objection and then pursued her case through the courts up to the highest level.

The Constitutional Court judges ruled that, while the ban impinged on the plaintiff’s freedom of worship, this was justified by other constitutional rights, including the state’s obligation to show religious neutrality and the operation of the administration of justice.

Certain other states, including North Rhine Westphalia, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Berlin impose similar rules, while in others there is no regulation, either because the problem has not been raised, or an amicable solution has been found.

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