Marco Buschmann wanted to become Minister of Justice. This is worth mentioning. Because it has offended the proud house in Berlin's Mohrenstraße to experience for years house managers who saw the justice department as a mixture of consolation prize and springboard.

Buschmann's predecessor Lambrecht did not even try to disguise her lack of interest in legal policy. She is remembered above all for the audacity she displayed in order to provide party friends with highly remunerated positions. And through business trips with few official appointments and plenty of time for sightseeing. Katarina Barley was more enthusiastic, but she quickly disappeared to Brussels. Heiko Maas was delighted when he was allowed to "rise" to the Federal Foreign Office. Politics is full of lawyers, but the Ministry of Justice does not count for much in terms of power politics. At the state level, it is not a matter of course that a lawyer can be found for this at all.

Buschmann has seen that the Ministry of Justice offers the opportunity to sharpen the profile of the FDP. The debt brake is worthy of all honor, but the hearts of the FDP do not fly because of it. Even with the ministries of transport and education, the Liberals can hardly score points so far. The Department of Justice must deliver, and it delivers liberal social policy. Here, the abolition of the advertising ban for abortions was prepared, the right of self-determination for trans people was worked out, cannabis legalization was promoted, as well as the dual motherhood of lesbian couples.

Tightening creates problems

In one point, the caesura after eight years of SPD leadership is particularly clear: Buschmann breaks with the unfortunate tradition of knee-jerk tightening of criminal law. Crime is changing, so laws need to be adapted. But higher penalties alone do not solve a problem. They suggest a solution and thus raise expectations that are immediately disappointed again. Local politicians are not better protected against attacks on the Internet because they now face up to three years in prison.

Sometimes tightening even creates problems. The upgrading of child pornography to a crime can lead to parents who want to point out criminal images to the class teacher and therefore forward them to find themselves in court. Lambrecht wanted this change under pressure from the tabloid and against the expert advice of officials in the ministry.

It has become common practice for justice ministers to speak of the "full rigour of the rule of law" and thus mean the prosecution of alleged perpetrators. In a state governed by the rule of law, laws must be enforced, but the essence of the rule of law lies in the self-commitment of the state, the protection of citizens from arbitrariness. Both dimensions need advocates so that the difficult tension between freedom and security does not get out of balance. Within the government, it is the justice and interior ministries. An antagonism between the houses is exhausting in the daily work, but beneficial for the country.

Image of the super-correct super-lawyer

The problem is that Bushman overdraws. He cultivates the image of the super-correct super-lawyer with a weakness for footnotes. But in fact, he doesn't take it very seriously when it comes to achieving the desired goal. Arguments that don't fit are made to fit. The professional advice of his officials then counts no more for Bushman than for his predecessors, only with the opposite sign. The full hardness of freedom.

Example: In the fight against data retention, the minister uses the data material by private treaty. From the number of cases that cannot be solved simply because the IP address is the only investigative approach that cannot be identified, he nonchalantly derives an impressive clearance rate, which in reality does not exist.

His staging as a fine-minded Musil exegete does not fit the robust style that his critics feel. An in-house head of unit expresses technical concerns about data retention and finds herself in another department. As agreed in the coalition agreement, the Länder are calling for financial support to better equip the judiciary. Bushman does not accommodate them, but then acts as if he had successfully concluded a pact for the rule of law. The countries feel fooled.

This is now taking its revenge. A wave of protest has built up against his plan to record criminal trials in image and sound in the future. It consists not only of justified objections from judicial practice, but also of frustration. Even in the ministry, the initial joy about Bushman has long since evaporated.