Imagining Judges that Apply Law: How They Might Do It

16 Pages Posted: 5 Apr 2010 Last revised: 23 May 2015

See all articles by James R. Maxeiner

James R. Maxeiner

University of Baltimore - School of Law

Date Written: 2009


"Judges should apply the law, not make it." That plea appears perennially in American politics. American legal scholars belittle it as a simple-minded demand that is silly and misleading. A glance beyond our shores dispels the notion that the American public is naive to expect judges to apply rather than to make law.

American obsession with judicial lawmaking has its price: indifference to judicial law applying. If truth be told, practically we have no method for judges, as a matter of routine, to apply law to facts. Our failure leads American legal scholars to question whether applying law to facts is a necessary feature of civil procedure at all.

German civil justice does have a method for routinely applying law to facts. It is called, in German, the "Relationstechnik," that is, in English, literally "relationship technique." This article introduces it to American lawyers and judges and shows how it helps make German civil justice effective.

Keywords: judges, jurisprudence, civil law, German civil law, German civil justice, judiciary, attorneys, lawyers, relationstechnik, civil procedure,

JEL Classification: K33, K19

Suggested Citation

Maxeiner, James R., Imagining Judges that Apply Law: How They Might Do It (2009). Penn State Law Review, Vol. 114, No. 2, 2009, Available at SSRN: or

James R. Maxeiner (Contact Author)

University of Baltimore - School of Law ( email )

1420 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218
United States
410-837-4628 (Phone)

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