Library of Congress Blog Post: Erna Scheffler – The First Female Judge at the German Federal Constitutional Court

The following is a guest post by Friederike Loebbert, a foreign law intern working with Foreign Law Specialist Jenny Gesley in the Global Legal Research Directorate of the Law Library of Congress.

In honor of Women’s History Month and the 100-year anniversary of women being allowed to practice law in Germany, I thought I would write about Erna Scheffler.

Erna Scheffler was born on September 21, 1893, and, in 1951, became the first female judge on the German Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht, BVerfG), which is the only federal court with constitutional review power. (Basic Law, arts. 92, 93.) She would be more than pleased to know that as of December 31, 2020, 47.9 % of all judges in Germany were female and that the Federal Constitutional Court currently has a female majority of 9 out of 16 judges. Since 2004, more women than men study law in Germany. When Erna Scheffler started law school in 1911 at the Friedrich-Wilhelm University Breslau (today the University of Wroclaw in Poland), she was the only female student and was mostly ignored by her professors, who kept addressing the auditorium with “dear gentlemen” only. (Jahrbuch Universität Breslau, at 540.) Moreover, at the time she started her law studies, job prospects for women in the legal field were still very limited.