Language that even judges don’t understand, sought on Twitter

A tweet yesterday from Prof Jo Delahunty QC:

Twitter help plz?HoL session nxt wk on legal interpreting:can u think of legal terms/turn of speech that r unintelligible even 2 lawyers?

Suggestions posted there:

Scottish law reports and odd use of Latin.
Any use of Latin
‘We are sitting on x day’ – do clients think we distinguish between standing up or not

‘Conference’ instead of meeting.

‘Shall remain in place until after c has left the jurisdiction’ but c can’t leave the jurisdiction if it’s still in place

Ex tempore, de minimis cd. esily be expressed in English.

Subtle judicial putdowns.

‘Miss X’s ambitious submission…’

‘Bold’. ambitious slightly more bitchy than bold.

Notwithstanding

In the alternative

Home Office unable to understand that ‘within 14 days’ means a fortnight – they think it means 3 months or so.

‘Proportionality’ in costs: mine are proportionate, yours are extortionate.

Double negatives and putting stuff in the passive – done to communicate nuance, but hardly plain English.

‘Forthwith’ – if you mean RIGHT NOW say so!

‘I listened to smultran of a ECJ hearing and the interpreter gave the exact opposite meaning for one word.’

Frequently words that have specific legal meaning or use but are in daily palance that cause bother, e.g. ‘robbing’.

Assault – conversion – occasioning – blackmail. I ‘submit’

And our insistence on using fancy words like ‘vernacular’ or ‘particularise’ or ‘traverse’.

Disguised compliance.

Mutatis mutandis

I don’t know if these examples are meant to be things difficult for interpreters, or for readers who aren’t lawyers.They are presumably what barristers think are confusing.

This kind of language is used by German lawyers too. I don’t find it particularly difficult to undestand becasue I think I switch my mind to that register. But I am not sure about ‘language that even judges don’t understand’.

Strafbefehle must be translated – CJEU

Udo Vetter at lawblog reports that the CJEU held that a Strafbefehl must be translated if the defendant doesn’t speak German. Here’s the decision of October 12 2017.

Directive 2010/64 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings (you can call up a bilingual version here too). The relevant bit is recital 30:

Safeguarding the fairness of the proceedings requires that essential documents, or at least the relevant passages of such documents, be translated for the benefit of suspected or accused persons in accordance with this Directive.

 

Zur Gewährleistung eines fairen Verfahrens ist es erforderlich, dass wesentliche Unterlagen oder zumindest die maßgeblichen Passagen solcher Unterlagen für die verdächtigen oder beschuldigten Personen gemäß dieser Richtlinie übersetzt werden.

A Dutch national, Frank Sleutjes, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and served the Strafbefehl (order of summary punishment) in German – only the details on how to appeal were translated. The Düren local court did not translate the order itself – normal practice nowadays. The European court finds that the Strafbefehl is an essential document.

I last discussed the subject here (the language of the court is German). We used to translate these all the time and presumably local courts will now be obliged to have them translated again.

There is not (yet) an English translation of the decision online, but there is an English translation of the Advocate General’s opinion. I see they translate Strafbefehl as penal order. I am not convinced by Tagessätze as daily penalties. More on the English perhaps later.

There is an amusing exchange in the comments on lawblog.

Bin mir nicht sicher wie ich das sehen soll.
Auf der einen Seite müssen die Leute den Text verstehen können, schon klar.
Auf der anderen Seite, woher weiß ich die Sprache die die Person spricht und wo nehme ich die Übersetzer her?
AFAIK gibt es etwa 7000 Sprachen weltweit. Und für die soll man nun immer Übersetzer vorhalten?
Klingt irgendwie nicht so gut durchdacht.

There’s a nice reference to the defendant (Beschuldiger) as “der Delinquent”.

‘Bonkers’ German law firm site

Roll on Friday has named Streck Mack Schwedhelm as the bonkers law firm of the day

Before putting pen to paper, get to know the recipients better. Each lawyer is allotted a space in which to recall “My path to Streck Mack Schwedhelm”. One partner reveals, “Excel is my passion“, but instead of therapy, “I looked for a law firm in which I could exercise this passion“. She found spreadsheet heaven at Streck Mack Schwedhelm. Another declares that the firm embodies “Enthusiasm/fantasy/commitment”, and in such a crucible is it any wonder that “tax law for me came to have a thrilling legal aura which didn’t let me go“.

The site is in German too.

As they’re tax lawyers, their logo is based on the tithe.

I can understand German lawyers wanting to jazz up their websites. The culture in which they are seen is rather formal. I have translated four different ones and the desire was always to keep the English formal too. After all, the website isn’t directed to a UK or US readership.

The photos are rather fascinating here. I can see what the photographer was trying to do. He often has blurred movement in the background instead of normal bokeh, the lawyers are painfully in focus and heavy shadows show how much lighting was used (a bit like Dougie Wallace shots).

Karin Linhart, Wörterbuch Recht 2nd edition

This is not a review, and I think dictionary reviews are difficult anyway. But I’d like to say that I’ve had a look at the second edition of Karin Linhart’s law dictionary (DE>EN, EN>DE, 2017) and it really does look greatly changed and improved from the first edition (2010).

I wrote about the first edition here.

Karin Linhart is German, which I hadn’t realized. She has a page in the German Wikipedia, Karin Linhart, with links to other sources and a list of publications. Meet Karin Linhart: A Law Library of Congress Patron has a photo of her with three Library of Congress librarians.

Here are the publisher’s details for the new edition.

One feature of this dictionary remains that its strongest point is the EN>DE part, with a preference (I still feel) for AmE. There are boxouts (those little additional glossary boxes), which Beck Verlag seems to love – I’m not sure who reads them – mainly in that section, but in the DE>EN section too. Their number has decreased. There are definitely English as well as US terms.

The foreword states that the dictionary has been newly designed, expanded and updated, and it is oriented mainly towards foreign students at German, Austrian and Swiss universities, but it is also for German students studying abroad, for lawyers, judges, and although it is written more from a lawyer’s point of view than a translator’s (what on earth does this mean?) it may be of use for translators and interpreters too.

A lot of the end materials have gone. including the amusing advice for German lawyers speaking English abroad and the US and South African constitutions. There is now only a specimen letter of application and CV for Germans applying in the USA.

The new edition is said to have Austrian and Swiss terms in it. So I checked the term HerabsetzungsklageHerabsetzungsurteil came up as a query on a mailing list this week. And it is in there:

Herabsetzungsklage (CH) ErbR
“(in Fällen, in denen die Anordnungen in der letztwilligen Verfügung den Wert übersteigen, über den nach Berücksichtigung der Pflichtteile noch verfügt werden kann) action in abatement – Art. 475 chZGB.”

This is excellent. The term is also in Tom West’s Trilingual Swiss Dictionary, of course, there citing Art. 522, which is equally appropriate, but without the definition.

One thing that strikes me on my cursory review is that there is an emphasis on terminology, especially nouns, from statutes, rather than, for example, conjunctions and turns of phrase – this is not surprising in a small dictionary, and it is what I would go to Romain for. But my Romain is falling apart and there is no help on the horizon – this might be what is meant by saying it is a dictionary conceived for lawyers rather than translators.

There are a large number of cross-references, necessary to save space in a small dictionary.

Noted in flicking through:
lucidum intervallum is translated as clear moment, rather than the usual lucid interval.

Lockvogel Strafr. agent provocateur (stool pigeon? decoy? not a very common word)

Arglistige Täuschung is followed by = List (A), that is, the Austrian equivalent is introduced after the German term – very useful. Other examples are Sorgerecht, (A) Obsorge

The English claimant for Kläger is there, but other new terms like statement of case are not.

mens rea is cross-referenced to criminal state of mind, which is the main headword and a very oddly phrased one, but I suppose it is hard to give a brief definition.

Anyway, this is just a brief reference. I will probably come back to the dictionary. I wish I had made a list of words to check all legal dictionaries for.

The pocket on a barrister’s gown

I must say I believed the story that barristers’ gowns had a pocket on them because they were not allowed to sue for fees and some money could discreetly be put in there by the client. However, it appears that that story was an invention and the pocket (known as a liripipe) is the remnant of a mourning hood assumed on the death of King Charles II in 1685.

See The junior barrister’s gown on Sir Henry Brooke’s site Musings, Memories and Miscellanea.

Is there an alternative to the gavel image?

As I have frequently posted – e.g. here -, the image of a gavel is often used in British and German newspapers to illustrate a court judgment. But UK and German judges don’t use gavels. Judges in the USA use them. In the UK, the gavel or hammer is what an auctioneer uses.

I don’t suppose everyone would understand how irritating it is to keep seeing this totally inappropriate image. But one site that does is Inappropriate Gavels. They tweet at @igavels too, and there’s no lack of examples in the press.

It strikes me that the gavel is a good image to use – stock image companies are full of them. alamy reports 28.294 images of gavels. So we need an alternative image.

The only commonly used image for a court decision apart from gavels is the scales of justice, sometimes held by a woman. alamy seems to have 6,937 of those. Maybe we should be encouraging good images of the scales of justice if we are to eradicate the gavel.

Here’s a Guardian article on Inappropriate Gavels, with comments, from the year 2015: Gavel bashing: why banging in court on TV is a serious factual offence.

Anti-terror laws hit street art

In Sclater Street:

WARNING
STREET ART TOURS ARE ILLEGAL
YOU COULD BE ARRESTED FINED & OR IMPRISONED
UNDER ANTI-TERROR LAWS*

*OR OUR GENERAL MODUS OPERANDI THAT
IF WE DON’T UNDERSTAND IT WE’LL SHUT IT DOWN ANYWAY
JUST IN CASE

(UNLESS YOU’RE A MEDIA MOGUL OR HAVE SOMETHING ON US OR BOTH)

METROPOLITAN POLICE
Because you just can’t be trusted

Bernard Bierman’s Translation News

I have been clearing out a lot of papers – hence the putting online again of the Geoffrey Perrin articles and one by me – and I came across the October 1995 issue of Translation News, a journal that posted news about the industry from 1989 to 1995 – the October 1995 issue was the last-but-one. That news often concerned the US scene. I encountered Bernie on Compuserve’s FLEFO in the early 1990s. It was an exciting time.

I am glad to say that the New England Translators Association is in the process of putting the whole of Translation News online.

Translation News (TN) was a newsletter published regularly by Bernard Bierman between November 1989 and December 1995. At its peak it had a little over a thousand subscribers and was undoubtedly read by many more. TN specialized in reporting and opinion pieces about issues of concern to translators and interpreters on a national level. It offered an informed glimpse into the inner workings of the major translator trade organizations and was a must for anyone wanting to keep up-to-date with the field. Unlike the various house organs, it never shied away from controversial issues. Taken as a whole, Translation News is a unique and important historical document of translation in the United States just before the Internet began to come into widespread use.

Because of this historical significance, the New England Translators Association (NETA) is pleased to make available the entire run of Translation News in searchable PDF form. We are indebted to Bernie Bierman and Rosene Zaros (the custodian of Mr. Bierman’s translation-related papers) for supplying all of the editions, and to Brand Frentz for contributing six very scarce early editions in mint condition (Vol. I Nos. 2-7, 1989-1990).