Abi grades trial: judge barausch not biased

Abi grades trial: judge barausch not biased

The second day of the appeal hearing against the principal of coburg's casimirianum grammar school, burkhard spachmann, began yesterday with a bang: his defenders eckart staritz and thomas bittorf had filed a motion to dismiss against the presiding judge ulrike barausch at the regional court on wednesday. First and foremost, the two lawyers accused the judge of bias, because she already had an "inner attitude" took a stand against spachmann.

Among other things, the defenders quoted from reports in the local press that barausch had called on the defendant to admit mistakes and to "do some soul-searching" and to confer with his attorneys. In his explanations of the motion, staritz considered this an "inadmissible invitation to a confession" and called it an attempt to undermine the trust relationship with his lawyers.

Said or not said?
In her statement, which was read out by judge ingo knecht-gunther, ulrike barausch pointed out that she could no longer remember the exact wording, but that – contrary to press reports – she had not asked spachmann to admit mistakes and to "do some soul-searching". The fact that the principal should discuss the matter with his lawyers was not a request for a confession, but was due to the not exactly simple legal situation.

To clarify what the judge had said or not said, staritz and bittorf even wanted to call the two reporters from the local press to the witness stand, but ingo knecht-gunther rejected the motion to recuse, which also spares the journalists the appearance before the court.

Before the judge could announce his decision, however, spachmann's defenders had already filed the next motion of bias against ulrike barausch. Once again, the issue was quotes in the press reports and whether or not the judge had addressed spachmann directly.

Prosecutor philipp karr also could not remember the exact wording of barausch's statements, but was of the opinion that a newspaper could not be sufficient proof of whether and how something had been said in a court hearing. Ingo knecht-gunther essentially concurred with this opinion and also rejected the second motion.

Third decision unnecessary
A good five hours later than planned, the main hearing finally began – presided over by ulrike barausch. After the teachers of the casimirianum were called as witnesses on the first day of the trial, representatives of the ministry were heard on thursday.

Edmund neubauer, the ministerial commissioner for grammar schools in upper franconia, had investigated, on behalf of the ministry and with the support of three subject specialists, the school-leaving examinations in which spachmann had raised the marks by one point each. As neubauer described to the court yesterday, in his opinion the "third decision" was too strict by burkhard spachmann was not necessary, because in all cases the two first examiners had graded unanimously. "A third decision is only foreseen if the two examiners do not reach a consensus", according to neubauer.

However, as the three experts unanimously confirmed, some of the work had been assessed too strictly in their opinion. "I had deviated from some of them – upwards as well as downwards", said a witness. In the more rigorously evaluated work, positive aspects were, in his opinion, not taken into account enough, said another witness.

And yet: if burkhard spachmann had approached edmund neubauer on the day before the 2013 school-leaving certificate was awarded and asked him whether he could raise the abitur grades because the assessment was too stringent – this scenario had been sketched out by judge barausch – the ministerial commissioner had given spachmann a clear answer: "i had advised him not to do it."

Burkhard spachmann is accused of false certification in office. After the 2013 school-leaving examinations, he had raised the grades in german by one point in 86 cases. The principal had been sentenced to a fine in the first instance, but appealed – as did the public prosecutor's office.


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