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Q: When is someone's attempt to use "Zurückhalterecht" illegal? Quote §'s or law. ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: When is someone's attempt to use "Zurückhalterecht" illegal? Quote §'s or law.
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: chiconanny-ga
List Price: $200.00
Posted: 22 Apr 2003 07:33 PDT
Expires: 22 May 2003 07:33 PDT
Question ID: 193801
I want to ask a question or two about German law.  
So I am asking the German Google answer people, I presume, if such a
team exists.  If not please inform me.  Perhaps someone can still try
to research it.  Inform me of this also.
I can write in German, but the results are sometimes comical.  So I
will write in English.  If there is a problem, I can go to German.
I have seen § 273 in the German Gesetz Buch about Zurückhalterecht. 
However, I have also learned that when someone holds back your
personal property (Unterlagen or Eigentum) that that is illegal. 
There is only a "Zurückhalterecht" on someone's own work, done for a
My question is, what § states this.  Or, perhaps, it is a court ruling
or precedent.  If so, please cite.  I have searched and cannot find it
yet.  Maybe I have not found the best site.
Second question.  I am familiar with the Oath of Hippocrates.  I have
found through google that Stanford University feels it should be the
first to promote a Hippocratic Oath for lawyers.  Has a similar thing
been done in the German community?  Or is there already a statement of
what an Anwalt is bound to in terms of the confidentiality
(Vertraulichkeit) that exists between client (Mandant) and attorney? 
Please email me back if you need more clarification,  
I think this question needs to be shipped over to the German Google
Answer department like this, or, someone with good background or
credentials should be the one to attempt to answer, e.g., a Native
German studying comparative law.  This is so I can be satisfied with
the answer.  But it does not have to be.  I set no absolute
conditions.  Ask me further if necessary.  Let us see what kind of
answer you turn up.
Subject: Re: When is someone's attempt to use "Zurückhalterecht" illegal? Quote §'s or law.
Answered By: j_philipp-ga on 23 Apr 2003 04:00 PDT
Hello Chiconanny,

First of all, my sister is German, successfully finished her law
studies, and knows how to search the web; she helped me a great deal
with this answer.

[Note: Assuming that you understand German, I will give German quotes
where appropriate, but since we are supposed to answer in English, I
will keep them short.]


Concerning the "Zurückbehaltungsrecht" (another word for
"Zurückhalterecht"), straight from the BGB, the "Bürgerliches

§ 273 BGB Zurückbehaltungsrecht 


Aktuelle Rechtsprechung zu § 273 BGB 


And how to check wether or not the "Zurückbehaltungsrecht" applies:

Juristisches Internetprojekt Saarbrücken 

"(1) Hat der Schuldner aus demselben rechtlichen Verhältnis, auf dem
seine Verpflichtung beruht, einen fälligen Anspruch gegen den
Gläubiger, so kann er, sofern nicht aus dem Schuldverhältnisse sich
ein anderes ergibt, die geschuldete Leistung verweigern, bis die ihm
gebührende Leistung bewirkt wird (Zurückbehaltungsrecht).

(2) Wer zur Herausgabe eines Gegenstandes verpflichtet ist, hat das
gleiche Recht, wenn ihm ein fälliger Anspruch wegen Verwendungen auf
den Gegenstand oder wegen eines ihm durch diesen verursachten Schadens
zusteht, es sei denn, daß er den Gegenstand durch eine vorsätzlich
begangene unerlaubte Handlung erlangt hat.

(3) 1 Der Gläubiger kann die Ausübung des Zurückbehaltungsrechts durch
Sicherheitsleistung abwenden. 2 Die Sicherheitsleistung durch Bürgen
ist ausgeschlossen."

University Düsseldorf [PDF]

University Regensburg [PDF]

So when does the "Zurückbehaltungsrecht" _not_ apply?
It does not apply when there is a contract, or due to the nature of
the object, e.g. a passport, or driver's license:

"Ausgeschlossen sein kann es höchstens durch Vertrag, oder durch Natur
des Gegenstandes, z.B. Reisepass, Führerschein, Schuldschein,
Lebenslaufakte eines Fahrzeuges, Paletten, die als Transportmittel
mitgeliefert wurden, (...) usw."
-- Kommentar zum BGB, Palandt.

Which means indeed it might be legal to hold something back.


As for the second part of your question, the "Verschwiegenheitspflicht
von Anwälten" (Hippocratic Oath for lawyers), see following document
from the "Bundesrechtsanwaltskammer":

§ 2 der Berufsordnnung der Rechtsanwälte [PDF]

Also, attorneys have a "Zeugnisverweigerungsrecht" in court.


I hope this is indeed what you were looking for. If so, I will give my
sister her share of the question price -- but if not, please ask for a
clarification on any part, and I will get back to you!

Request for Answer Clarification by chiconanny-ga on 23 Apr 2003 07:15 PDT
Yes, I did want to make a clarification after thinking my question
submission over last night.
I wanted to find what the law (again, paragraphs) has to say about
holding back
either Leistung or materials (Zurückbehaltungsrecht) especially when
these impact upon the progress of other cases.  The other cases could
be civil or criminal, but especially when they are criminal.  This is
the really important part to this question that I need.  It seems to
me that the German system of laws would incorporate somewhere in the
paragraphs something like this--the principle that justice comes first
before a question of money - (of someone's Rechnung that they have
sent out that is highly questionable in particular).
The part that is straight from the BGB and the "Juristisches
Internetprojekt Saarbrücken" I had already, although it does not hurt
to repeat it here.  It seems that to make this a really knock-down,
drag-out answer it needs a good  clarification on the above point. 
Then I feel I can release payment to you.
You (two) seem like one of the almost perfect ideals for people who
could supply an answer to a question like this without going back to
Germany Google (does such a team exist?).
Can you please supply the web source for "-- Kommentar zum BGB,
Palandt" so that I can read further.  I think I may need to read all
of this.
Lastly, when you say "Which means indeed it might be legal to hold
something back," I presume you might mean to say "illegal" where you
have "legal?"  (It is clear that it is legal to hold something

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 23 Apr 2003 22:10 PDT
Hello Chiconanny,

Thanks for asking for a clarification. I will get back to you with the
details on the crucial part of your question, as well as the other
questions. Hopefully that will be in around 5 hours, after talking to
my sister and preparing the information.

You are asking, does a Germany Google Answers exist?
Well, there is currently no official German-language Google Answers.
However Google Answers has Researchers from many different countries,
and some native Germans (like me).

If you are interested, you can read through the following:

Google Answers - Location of researchers

Thanks for being patient!

Request for Answer Clarification by chiconanny-ga on 24 Apr 2003 01:15 PDT
I thought again last night.  This is just perhaps a better way to
state what I had stated before.  The modded question is, what sections
of German law have dealt with the rights of individuals to justice,
especially when there is a conflict with the right to hold back
(Zurückhalterecht) (or Precedent cases, although I recognize German
law is not heavily dependent upon precedent as American law is). 
There is a criminal case in which a lawyer has held back Unterlagen
when he has asked DM 10,500 as his Gebuhr, which is disputed.  DM
2,500 was paid.  The disputee says that is enough.  But the lawyer is
IMPEDING a criminal investigation and process by holding back this
EVIDENCE.  It seems the law (German) has something to say about this. 
The words in all CAPITALS are important key words I think in this
whole thing.  I know that in American law IMPEDING the law or
withholding EVIDENCE is very severe.  So please use these words as
turning points (if they have somewhat the same seriousness or weight
in German law).  This will be my last request for a further
clarification or modification to this question and answer.  Please
give me the Zinger of an answer so we can close this.

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 24 Apr 2003 01:37 PDT
Hello Chiconanny,

Thanks, I will take this into consideration.

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 24 Apr 2003 04:14 PDT
Hello again Chiconanny,

Let me quote from the following source (this may be unnecessary for
you, but I tried to translate certain words in the footnotes):

Handakten (by Anwaltverein König Wusterhausen-Zossen) 

"Zurückbehaltung von Handakten

Um die Zurückbehaltung von Handakten wegen Honorarforderungen gibt es
immer wieder Streit. Dies schlägt sich auch in Beschwerdeschreiben [1]
an die Kammer nieder. Es sei deshalb auf die Entscheidung des BGH vom
3. Juli 1997 (NJW 1997, 2944) verwiesen. Danach besteht ein
Zurückbehaltungsrecht an Handakten in aller Regel nur wegen der
Honorarforderungen aus der konkreten Angelegenheit. Wegen anderer
Angelegenheiten dürfen Handakten nicht zurückbehalten werden.
Bei Zurückbehaltung von Handakten ist also Vorsicht geboten.
Andererseits kann einem berechtigten Interesse des Mandanten auch
durch Überlassung von Kopien Rechnung getragen werden."

And also the following from § 50 Abs. 3 BRAO

BRAO Handakten des Rechtsanwalts (by Bundesministerium der Justiz)

"Der Rechtsanwalt kann seinem Auftraggeber die Herausgabe der
Handakten verweigern, bis er wegen seiner Gebühren und Auslagen
befriedigt ist. Dies gilt nicht, soweit die Vorenthaltung der
Handakten oder einzelner Schriftstücke nach den Umständen unangemessen

As to the quote from Palandt, this was from the book; Page 321-324,
comments to § 273.

My sister adds:

"'Den Umständen nach unangemessen' ist für meine Begriffe auf jeden
Fall, wenn man dadurch Beweisstücke unterschlägt."

And she also says:

"Wenn der Rechtsanwalt jetzt noch Verteidiger wäre/ war, könnte er
sich durch Zurückbehaltung evtl. auch der Strafvereitelung [2] gemäß §
258 StGB strafbar machen [3].

Aber eigentlich zielt der Paragraph natürlich auf ein
Verteidigerverhalten zugunsten des Angeklagten ab und nicht umgekehrt,
z.B. darf der Verteidigeranwalt nicht zur Einsicht überlassene
Strafakten zum Zwecke der Verfahrensverschleppung [4] zurückhalten
(vgl. Koblenz JR 80, 478; Beulke 102) -- zitiert aus "Tröndle
/Fischer" Kommentar zum StGB."

Rechtsprechung dazu - § 258 StGB Strafvereitelung

Please note that I could not yet verify if my sister took into account
your last request, but I'll get back to you if she has more to add in
that regard.

Let me know if you need further clarification or if this answers your


[1] "Beschwerdeschreiben"
My translation is "letters of complaint".

[2] "Strafvereitelung"
My translation: "hindering the sentence/ punishment".

[3] BRAO Handakten des Rechtsanwalts (by Bundesministerium der Justiz)

[4] "Verfahrensverschleppung"
I would translate this as "delaying the case".

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 24 Apr 2003 04:59 PDT
Hello Chiconanny,

My sister adds the following:

"Die in Frage stehende Person (also derjenige, der Beschuldigter im
Strafverfahren ist und nicht an die Akten/Unterlagen kommt) könnte, um
sich zu helfen, ja eine Einverständniserklärung zur Beschlagnahme der
betroffenen Unterlagen geben. Eigentlich sind diese Sachen gemäß § 97
StPO beschlagnahmefrei, aber nicht, wenn der Beschuldigte der
Beschlagnahme zustimmt. Wenn es zulässig wäre, den
Zeugnisverweigerungsberechtigten -- also den Anwalt -- von seiner
Schweigepflicht zu entbinden, dann erlaubt auch das bloße
Einverständnis des Beschuldigten die Beschlagnahme -- Zitat aus
"Kleinknecht/Meyer-Goßner" Kommentar zur StPO, S. 300, Rn. 26 zu § 97

Hope this helps!

Request for Answer Clarification by chiconanny-ga on 10 May 2003 07:22 PDT
I have found a way where I can give you more money for a refined
answer (a
tip of $100 max). 

After much study of your answers so far, and sorry I was away for
have determined that I am going to re-write everything in the first
to make it more dramatic and as absolutely clear as can be.  

I have noticed that this question expires 22May03 so there is still
time to work on refining and honing it to a fine point.  

I want this to be an effort to put as hard a check on our past
as I can.  
It has really revealed to me the limitations of exchanging written
What is lacking is the immediate feedback of conversation on the phone
I could ask a small question for clarification and get an immediate
and satisfaction.  

Here goes: 

Schmitt was my former lawyer.  

Schmitt has held back my Unterlagen that contain Beweisstücke and some
personal property (Eigentum).  

These Beweisstücke and Eigentum belong to the criminal case I have
against my ehemalig managers Mr. Alberts and Mrs. Schäfer.  I have
these cases with my new lawyer, Mr. Frey.  

I had asked Mr. Schmitt to file the case against Mr. Alberts, but he
done it even after a delay of months.  

Schmitt is not a Verteidiger as described in the paragraph against
Vereitelung, although this paragraph may also be talking about a
is not a Verteidiger?  (A question.) 

Schmitt is not the Prosecutor (Staatsanwalt).  

I dispute Schmitt's fee.  

I dispute his fee because he did not even file the case against
after months had passed despite the fact that the 2,500 DM advance I
him contained the 660.00 DM court fee.  In other words, he took no
(what I would call concrete) action, perhaps after your quote from 
Handakten (by Anwaltverein König Wusterhausen-Zossen) 
"Zurückbehaltung von Handakten
Danach besteht ein Zurückbehaltungsrecht an Handakten in aller Regel
nur wegen der Honorarforderungen aus der konkreten Angelegenheit.
Wegen anderer Angelegenheiten dürfen Handakten nicht zurückbehalten

It was after some time (a couple of months) that I decided that this
much time, because nothing was happening.

It has cost me a lot of money (figure = ~ 30,000 DM minimum up to
depending on how you look at it) because of this delay.  Therefore, I
am "geschädigt." 

I changed to Mr. Frey who had essentially everything done within 3

I wrote a letter to Schmitt that I disagree with his fee for the total
amount because he did not file either the criminal charges (which Mr.
did very quickly) or the charges to remove Alberts from my
that he should return my Unterlagen. 

Remember, I have paid him 2,500 (which included the court Gebuhr) of
requested 10,500 DM, when he did not even file the case after months.

I am looking for paragraphs or decisions that directly apply in a case
this, where a lawyer (Schmitt) has held back my Unterlagen that
Beweisstücke in a criminal case because he wants to be paid in full an
outlandish fee when he did not even concretely start the case (or file
case, which would mean erstatten, as in Strafanzeige erstatten).  

Or those paragraphs that come as close as possible.  Those cited
somewhat "close," but as the law goes somewhat exactly, may not be
applicable.  I have listed below the 3 points that answer I think more
less exact (exact means usable).  

Some are clearly not applicable.  

That he has delayed the prosecution of a criminal case is clear.  This
called impeding the law.  It is called aiding and abetting a crime in
English (Beihilfe zur Tat auf Deutsch-reference:  LEO - Look
everything up

There is a complication, which you may find interesting.    
He had a relationship (Verhältnis) with one of my former managers
whom I have filed criminal charges in this case, Mrs. Schäfer.  
I asked him confidentially, in order to get the truth from him, and to
him a chance to recover, if it was true.  He said yes, he had had a
relationship.  But he had learned that "Sie tic nicht richtig," und

It was after some time (a couple of months) that I decided that this
much time.  Nothing was happening.  I started to think that nothing
happen, because if the first manager fell, that would mean that the
his "former" lover, was also guilty.  
Now he has the arrogance to try to demand the whole concocted fee of
DM when he did not even really (concretely) begin the work.  (My new
says that the fee can be made much lower.)
That is too much for me.  
In other words, I began to have serious doubts about his ability to
act on
my behalf
without bias or a conflict of interest.  
I feel, especially after reading the Berufsordung, that he should have
informed me as my Advocate much sooner that he knew that Mrs. Schäfer
I feel that this violates the ethical code for an attorney that you
cited for me as the Berufsordnung.  
(Please let me point out that I have only read the Berufsordnung
limited time so far.  I have not studied it at depth.)  

END of story written in first person.  

Auxillary notes, important, please don't forget:  

Is there a way (a link) where I can get the BGH decision vom 3. Juli
2944)  electronically?  

As to the quote where your sister adds: 
"'Dem Umständen nach unangemessen' ist für meine Begriffe auf jeden
wenn man dadurch Beweisstücke unterschlägt."  
is this only your sister's opinion?  If so, can it be supported or
by a quote from the law §'s someplace?   Of course, I agree with it
The problem is, that my opinion does not mean anything.  But the law's
judges opinion does mean something.  

I think this approach will make it clearer than I did before.  
If nothing else, it can help to make sure that the problem is
communicated, and the the answers already sent are correct.  
It make stimulate thinking to where there is something important that
want to add at last at the end.  

To summarize:  

Please look and think over this new very direct statement of the
question and see if in the context of what I have already sent you and
have exchanged before, it sheds some new light and is a hard check on
the actual situation is.  

Let me spell out what seems relevant, or "correct" in your answers to
far-by that I mean "usable" from a pragmatic standpoint--
	--§ 258 Strafvereitelung  

	--the Berufsordung 
	--BGH decision from 3 Juli 1997 (NJW 1997, 2944), for which I ask if
there is a way or link to get electronically.  

What seems at first glance not directly appropriate or relevant-

	The part where you could be answering as if Schmitt is Vertidiger.
He is not.  
To further clarify, Schmitt is also not the prosecutor (Staatsanwalt).
was my former lawyer.  

In the final analysis, I think that after this, that when you re-read
sent before, you can see how it all fits together.  Maybe you can see
how some you sent me before is not actually relevant, especially the §
the end of your last communication (where you sister says "Die in
stehende Person ... (Zitat aus "Kleinknecht/Myeter-Go?ner."), because
accused (Beschuldigter) is my former manager Herr Alberts, not I.  

Perhaps you did not get 100% the background for my question before.  
On the other hand, something could have been lost in the "transfer,"
please give this first person dramatization write-up directly over to
sister complete.  
The last § your sister quotes on "derjenige, der Beschuldigter im
Strafverfahren ist ..." (Kleinknecht/Myeter-Go?ner) seemed to make it
to me that a little something was being lost in the transfer.  

Good luck, and again thank you for what you have sent so far.  
I will keep you informed of the outcome.

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 10 May 2003 21:55 PDT
Hi Chiconanny,

Agreed, this way of communication can be slower, and this time
especially since there's an extra "layer" (that would be me). The good
news is I will meet my sister soon (I'm in another country at the
moment, and had to communicate via email so far), and then I can more
directly go through it.
I would like to get back to you by this Thursday, if that's fast
enough. If it's more urgent, just let me know here.

I'm sure we can work it out and make this a complete answer!

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 15 May 2003 08:05 PDT
Hello again,

I'll discuss your request with my sister today and hope to get back to
you by tomorrow!

Clarification of Answer by j_philipp-ga on 16 May 2003 07:27 PDT
Hello Chiconanny,

And here goes. My "sister in law":


You have the option of filing a case against Schmitt, a so-called
"Herausgabeklage" in a civil court according to §985 BGB "auf
Herausgabe" of the Unterlagen.

The behavior of Schmitt is completely inappropriate -- to keep the DM
660, to ask for more after having done nothing, having a relationship
with Mrs. Schäfer, etc. And also, if these indeed are all facts,
Schmitt would have no chance of justifying his "Zurückbehaltungsrecht"
in court.


Concerning the relationship of Schmitt and Schäfers:

BRAO (Bundesrechtsanwaltsordnung)

§43a Grundpflichten des Anwalts

I. Der Rechtsanwalt darf keine Bindungen eingehen, die seine
berufliche Unabhängigkeit gefährden.
[My translation: the attorney may not have relationships that might
endanger his professional objectivity or independence.]

§50 -> No quote, but the same as recently discussed: keine
Zurückbehaltung von Handakten, soweit unangemessen.
[No keeping back of files, if inappropriate.]


Here are the specific comments to your text:

"Is there a way (a link) where I can get the BGH decision vom 3. Juli

- Sorry, the BGH site only starts to include later decisions.

"As to the quote where your sister adds:  
"'Dem Umständen nach unangemessen' ist für meine Begriffe auf jeden
Fall, wenn man dadurch Beweisstücke unterschlägt."
is this only your sister's opinion?"

- Yes, that was only her opinion.

"Schmitt is not a Verteidiger as described in the paragraph against
Vereitelung, although this paragraph may also be talking about a
lawyer who is not a Verteidiger?  (A question.)"

- She says in that case the paragraph is not appliccable.

"I am looking for paragraphs or decisions that directly apply in a
case like  this, where a lawyer ..."

- My sister adds that we have no case law culture in Germany (no
common law culture as in UK and USA).


I hope this answers it!
There are no comments at this time.

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