Court offers are more realistic than many realize

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to: Max Muller

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Barbara Salesch in 2008: Four years later, her show is currently canceled. © Horst Galuschka / Imago

Television judge Barbara Selish is back on air. Their shows are still fictional, but in principle they resemble a real trial, as one lawyer explains.

Cologne — she was in early retirement about ten years ago, and now, at 72, Barbara Selish is back in the position on television she’s been indispensable for years — on the lunchtime show. Starting Monday (September 5), her show will air on RTL Monday through Friday at 11 a.m., this time under the name “Barbara Salesch – The Criminal Court.” Ten years of no publicity, it’s a very long time that Salish doesn’t look at all. She didn’t really go anyway, the former judge at the Hamburg Regional Court made up a lot of school-free afternoons for that.

Perhaps this is the reason why students of Michael Vollrott, professor of labor law at Fresenius University in Hamburg, are today surprised at how civilized things are in ordinary courts. For years, German television in the afternoon was tightly controlled by television courts. For many freshmen, Alexander Hold and Barbara Selish may have taken the place of the legal seminar. “I often hear from my students that it is actually quite different from what happens with Mrs. Salisch,” says Fullrott. from IPPEN.MEDIA.

Barbara Seles court show: ‘Negotiations are relatively close to reality’

Fullrott works as a lawyer – and he loved watching court shows. Today he himself appears in court once a week. But this is much more gray than the shows he liked to watch during school and law school. He seems a little disappointed when he says that on the phone.

Fuhlrott has a very personal history with Barbara Salesch. At that time, when he was a young student in Göttingen, he saw a television judge re-enact her show in the lecture hall. For Fuhlrot, who is no longer seen as a layman but as a potential lawyer, that was an aha moment. “I’ve noticed up until then that the negotiations are relatively close to reality,” Fullrott says. “As a general rule, the procedure is the same as in the ordinary procedure under the Code of Criminal Procedure.” First the indictment is read, then the evidence is taken, then the pleadings follow and finally the accused has the last word. Some details are different, but they do not bother Fuhlrott: “Laws are always wrong, the spine of the writers facing the viewer. Indeed, the judge must be able to reach them.”

Anyone who has ever seen a real court proceeding will know that the key difference is different. On TV – how could it be otherwise – there are too many subscriptions. cases? It couldn’t be more exciting. the parties? Stacked to the point of caricature. Date? There is at least one exciting development. Above all, there are those elements that are rarely found in reality, says Fullrott.

Attorney Michael Fullrott standing in front of a white wall.
Attorney Michael Fullrott used to watch court presentations — but he’ll miss Salesch’s comeback. © FHM

Private investigators, witnesses from the public: does this also happen in real court sessions?

At Barbara Salesch’s Shows, it was and still is part of the script for the process to take a dramatic turn. So famous: the witness who explains everything out of nowhere. He often only sits in the audience at first. realistic scenario? “I haven’t tested that yet. The defense sometimes says they want to hear other witnesses. That will be clarified beforehand,” Fullrott says.

Another element to dramatize the negotiations: a tearful confession coming out of nowhere. “That certainly happens sometimes, but as a defender you usually follow a strategy that has been thought beforehand. Do I demand a lighter punishment and confess? Am I not saying anything?” To suddenly deviate from this is somewhat unusual.


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It is unusual for private investigators to show up at the last minute, explaining everything. You must tell the court in advance that there is a witness or other significant evidence. Only revealing this during the process is film-ready, says Fullrott, but it doesn’t make sense.”

Sales peaked in 2002: market share more than 30%

At the beginning of the court show era, viewers were shown real cases. In terms of stakes, it backfired. Reason: Technical questions are often dealt with in court that the average person does not understand. In most cases, the culprit is known in advance, and 80 percent of cases recur. Often the facts are straightforward, it just comes down to the amount of punishment,” says Fullrott. Soon, the screenwriters relied entirely on fictional cases—successfully. In 2002, Richter Barbara Selish achieved a market share of more than 30 percent.

For all the entertainment, Fullrott says, the court shows even have an educational twist. “TV shows have made an effort to discuss a legal issue on some shows. For example, evidence is found that someone has been blackmailed. These are classic legal issues brought up in law exams.”

Lawyer: This is how you get to know the exciting negotiations in reality

TV court programs as an advertisement for the shortage of lawyers? Afternoon shows even educational television? Ms. Selish wasn’t the reason why Fuhlrott studied law, but to get a first impression, the programs aren’t that bad. But reality is more exciting than fiction. “As a student, I often looked at operations,” Fullrott says.

His advice on how to recognize raised issues in advance: “If you look at the protocols of proceedings, you should pay attention to whether or not witnesses were invited. Then it is very likely that the question will arise: what really happened? In many cases this is obvious beforehand – and then it can get very boring as a spectator.” With Barbara Salesch, the opposite is true: everything is done so that it does not become boring – yet everything is clear beforehand.

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