Autonomy versus Responsibility: A critique of Nuremberg Essay

1408 Words 6 Pages
Autonomy versus Responsibility: A critique of Nuremberg

"This case is unusual in that the defendants are charged with crimes committed in the name of the law…." ( United States 31) So began Brigadier General Taylor in his opening statement against a selection of German jurists after the Second World War. This trial, United States of America against Josef Altstoetter et al., commonly referred to as the "Justice Case" because all of the defendants were somehow attached to the Nazi judicial system, was unusual, for as Taylor continued:

These men, together with their deceased or fugitive colleagues, were the embodiment of justice in the Third Reich.

Most of the defendants have served, at various times, as judges, as state
…show more content…
This at first glance may sound totally just and right; but carry it one-step farther: The United States seems to be advocating not only for a judiciary independent of the rest of the government, but also for a judiciary independent of the law.

The defendants are assuredly guilty of "crimes against humanity" if they propagated these laws themselves, and would therefore be responsible not only for their own actions, but for those of the entire judiciary. This is not the case because it ignores one important aspect of German law—namely that it is not a system based on common law. Instead it is a system based on the codified statutes enacted by the legislature. Judges do not have the power to declare precidents that carry the force of law, instead they may only interpret the legal code case by case. In other words they are bound to the law as promulgated by the legislature, judges may not interpret the law to establish precidents. Therefore any action performed by a judge must be in accordance with the law, otherwise it would be akin to a judge in the United States ruling part of the constitution illegal. ( 108-9) Furthermore it is not as if Germany lacked a highly developed judicial system and the National Socialists crated their own upon taking power in 1933. Instead as Dr. Egon Kubuschok, counsel for the defendant Franz Schliegleberg, stated in the opening address for the
Open Document