OFNER, JULIUS (1845–1924), Austrian lawyer and politician. Born in Horschenz/Hořenice, Bohemia, Ofner qualified as a lawyer in Vienna and acquired a considerable reputation as a jurist through his writings on law and philosophy. These included Das Recht auf Arbeit (1885) and Der Urentwurf und die Beratungsprotokolle des oesterreichischen Allgemeinen Buergerlichen Gesetzbuches (1887–88). He was elected to the Lower Austrian Diet in 1896 and, five years later, to the Reichsrat (1901–18). Later he joined the Austrian Liberal Party and fought for comprehensive social legislation, including the extension of women's rights and the granting of suspended sentences in criminal cases. He also initiated a law preventing criminal prosecution for petty larceny known as the Lex Ofner.
In 1913 Ofner was appointed to the Austrian Supreme Court (Reichsgericht) and in 1919 was made permanent referee of its successor, the Austrian Constitutional Court (Verfassungsgerichtshof). Ofner was instrumental in obtaining the release of Leopold *Hilsner. He advocated the abolition of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in matters of marriage and divorce, and thereby aroused the hostility of the Roman Catholic majority in Vienna. The Catholics particularly resented the fact that it was a Jew who pressed for this measure, and the Jews were afraid that the intervention of a Jew in Christian affairs would lead to antisemitism. In the 1919 elections to the Constituent Assembly, Ofner was defeated but the seat went to another Jew, the Zionist candidate, Robert *Stricker.
Julius Ofner zum 70sten Geburtstage (1915), includes a list of his books; W. Herz, in: Neue Oesterreichische Biographie, 13 (1959), 104–11. E. Lehmann, "Julius Ofner. Ein Kaempfer für Recht und Gerechtigkeit" (Ph.D. thesis Vienna University, 1931). add. bibliography : E. Fraenkel, The Jews of Austria… (1976), 31–34.
[Josef J. Lador-Lederer]