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Jutta Limbach (27 March 1934 – 10 September 2016) was a German jurist and politician. She was a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). She served as President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany from 1994 to 2002, as the first woman in this office.

Jutta Limbach
Jutta Limbach.jpg
President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
In office
30 June 1994 – 10 April 2002
Preceded byRoman Herzog
Succeeded byHans-Jürgen Papier
Vice President of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany
In office
24 March 1994 – 14 September 1994
Preceded byErnst Mahrenholz
Succeeded byJohann Friedrich Henschel
Senator for Justice of Berlin
In office
Preceded byRupert Scholz
Succeeded byLore Maria Peschel-Gutzeit
Personal details
Born(1934-03-27)27 March 1934
Berlin, Germany
Died10 September 2016(2016-09-10) (aged 82)
Berlin, Germany
Alma materFree University of Berlin

Early life and educationEdit

Born as Jutta Ryneck, Limbach grew up in Berlin. Her grandmother Elfriede Ryneck was a member of the Weimar National Assembly and the Reichstag, and her father Ernst Ryneck served as mayor of Pankow after 1945. Limbach studied law in Berlin and Freiburg. She passed the first and the second state law examination in 1958 and 1962. From 1963 to 1966 she worked as a research assistant at the law school of the Free University of Berlin and received her doctorate in law in 1966, with a thesis in legal sociology.[1]


Limbach fulfilled the requirements to be appointed professor by the German educational system in 1971. In 1972, she was appointed professor for civil law, commercial law and legal sociology at the Free University.[1] From 1987 to 1989, she was member of an academic advisory council at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth.

Under Walter Momper as mayor, Limbach was the senator for Justice in Berlin from 1989 to 1994. During her time in office, German prosecutors issued a warrant for the arrest of Erich Honecker after discovering written orders by the former East German leader for guards at the Berlin wall to shoot to kill people who were seeking to flee the country.[2]

Judge at the Federal Constitutional Court of GermanyEdit

In 1994, Limbach was appointed to the position of vice-president of the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, the same year she became president, succeeding Roman Herzog. She was the first female president of the court and served in this role until she reached the age limit of 68 in 2002.[3] During her leadership, the 2nd Senate of the Court issued numerous important rulings, including decisions on the criminal prosecution of former Stasi spies (BVerfGE 92, 277), on Germany's accession to the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union (BVerfGE 97, 350) and on the German system of equalization payments (BVerfGE 101, 158).[4]

Later roleEdit

Limbach then became president of the German non-profit organization Goethe-Institut. In 2004, she was repeatedly named as a possible candidate to succeed Johannes Rau as President of Germany in that year's election.[5] Limbach was a member of the committee of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade.

In 2005 and 2006 Limbach was a member of the Group of Wise Persons who was tasked by the Council of Europe to develop strategies how to manage the workload of the European Court of Human Rights. In 2007, she was a member of the Group of Intellectuals for Intercultural Dialogue set up at the initiative of the European Commission.[1]

In 2010, Limbach in an interview proposed that liberal human rights activist Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger be made a judge at the court, praising her "intellectual honesty";[6] instead, Andreas Voßkuhle was nominated by the SPD.

IN 2013 Limbach was awarded the Mercator Visiting Professorship for Political Management at the University of Duisburg-Essen’s NRW School of Governance. During the winter semester of 2014 she gave both lectures and seminars at the university.[7]

Limbach Commission on Nazi artEdit

From 2003, Limbach headed the so-called Limbach Commission (Advisory Commission on the return of cultural property seized as a result of Nazi persecution, especially Jewish property),[1] a panel convened by the German government to give recommendations on restitution claims regarding art works stolen or purchased under duress by the Nazis; the panel's decisions are not legally binding but are intended as a form of mediation in disputes over provenance.[8] The eight members of the commission are charged by Germany's federal, state and local governments with helping to return art looted by the Nazis to its rightful owners gathered for the first time.[9] By 2014, the Limbach Commission had been called upon to advise on about a dozen restitution cases.[10]

Awards and recognitionsEdit

Limbach held honorary degrees from the University of Basel (1999), Erasmus University Rotterdam (2002), University College London (2002), York University (2003) and University of Bremen (2008). In 1999, she was named Honorary Bencher of the Gray's Inn.[4] She has also received numerous awards, including the Grand Decoration of Honour in Gold of the Republic of Austria (1998) and the Louise-Schroeder-Medal (2005).[4]


Limbach died on 10 September 2016, aged 82, in Berlin.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d Participants Archived 2014-04-07 at the Wayback Machine Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications for Items of Cultural Value and the Second World War, The Hague.
  2. ^ John Tagliabue (December 2, 1990), Honecker's Arrest Sought in Berlin Wall Shootings New York Times.
  3. ^ "A German voice in Egypt". Al-Ahram Weekly. 26 January – 1 February 2006. Archived from the original on 4 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  4. ^ a b c Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jutta Limbach feiert ihren 80. Geburtstag, press release of March 26, 2014 Federal Constitutional Court of Germany, Karlsruhe.
  5. ^ "Gender agenda (in European Press Review)". BBC News. 8 September 2003. Retrieved 2010-03-14.
  6. ^ Heribert Prantl (May 17, 2010), Interview mit Jutta Limbach: "Weil sie dem Rechtsstaat Ehre macht" Süddeutsche Zeitung.
  7. ^ Online, FOCUS. "Christian Wulff wird Gastdozent an der Uni Duisburg-Essen". FOCUS Online (in German). Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  8. ^ Melissa Eddy (March 20, 2014), German Panel Says Medieval Treasure Should Not Be Returned to Heirs of Jewish Owners New York Times.
  9. ^ Lawrence Van Gelder (July 15, 2003), Germany: Plundered Art New York Times.
  10. ^ Bernhard Schulz (March 22, 2014), Advisory body to German government finds against Jewish claimants for the €400m Guelph Treasure Archived 2014-03-23 at the Wayback Machine The Art Newspaper.
  11. ^ "Jutta Limbach ist gestorben" (in German). Spiegel Online. 12 September 2016. Archived from the original on 12 September 2016. Retrieved 12 September 2016.
Educational offices
Preceded by
Hilmar Hoffmann
President of the Goethe-Institut
Succeeded by
Klaus-Dieter Lehmann