Rudolf Mellinghoff was born in 1954. After completing his studies at the University of Münster, he completed his legal apprenticeship in the state of Baden-Württemberg (1981-84). He remained in Baden-Württemberg as a research assistant at the University of Heidelberg's Institute for Finance and Tax Law until 1987, when he moved to Düsseldorf for his first judicial appointment. This was followed by four years as a research assistant at the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Germany's Federal Constitutional Court.

He returned to the Düsseldorf Finance Court in 1989, where he remained until accepting a position developing the administrative legal system in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, one of the new eastern states. In 1992, he was appointed to the Finance Court of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and was made Presiding Judge four years later. This was followed by a promotion first to the Adminstrative Appellate Court of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and then to the State Constitutional Court of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where he served until 1996. In 1997, he was appointed to the ninth Senat of the Federal Finance Court.

He has served in the second Senat of the Federal Constitutional Court since 2001.

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