Court Donations

Who gets money from judges and prosecutors?

von Jonathan Sachse

Every year German judges and prosecutors hand out tens of millions of Euros from closed criminal proceedings – and hardly anyone takes notice. We want to change that and are now publishing the flow of money. A first story can be found today in the Munich newspaper “tz”. You can also read the whole report including a detailed database on our website.

>>>> To the website:

This investigation into court donations is our first story that is strictly driven by data. In the past weeks we were busy collecting data on payments arranged by judges and prosecutors to charitable organizations. The judicial authorities gave us piles of names and numbers. Most of it was in a disordered jumble. Some sent us scanned documents that were hardly machine-readable; from others we received well-organized Excel tables that were easy for us to process.

Other journalists have tried to compile such an overview in the past. So far everyone has failed. Resistance from the authorities was too great. At best, a few individual courts offered data on the flows of payments.

We too have not accomplished everything we set out to do: Baden-Württemberg has only provided data on the top 3 recipients of money in the years 2011 to 2013. Allegedly, the data was not properly collected. The Hesse judiciary is refusing to fully cooperate. Without any further explanation and in a purely arbitrary move, the ministry has not yet released data for the years 2012 and 2013. The Landgericht (Regional Court) Munich 2 says that no data is available for 2012 due to a “technical error”, saying that the data has been “lost”. And the Stralsund prosecutor’s office has no idea who received what amount in 2011.

After we compiled all available data, our data journalist Stefan Wehrmeyer created a database that anyone can now access on the internet. Our goal: people should have a tool to help them see which associations in their city or community receive money from the judiciary.

We publish this data with a goal: we want the court donations to be transparent. And we want to help decrease the judiciary’s susceptibility to corruption. If everyone can see who receives money arranged by judges and prosecutors, the risk of someone trying to funnel money into their own pocket is reduced.

And now it’s your turn: give us a hand and look into our database. Do you see anything suspicious? Have judges given money to an association they are a member of? Or to clubs that have questionable aims?

If you work at a local newspaper or a local radio station we invite you to use our work. Find and publish the data for your city. Perhaps your readers will notice things you can use for future stories. Whether in Herne, Erfurt or Flensburg. You can find results for almost every city in our database.

Finally, if you like our work, you can become a member of CORRECTIV and provide lasting support for independent investigations in the public interest.