Ellipsis in Legal Spanish: Sala Primera, Sala Segunda, etc.

Spanish legal professionals may assume that their audiences will understand what is meant when they refer to any of the five divisions of the Supreme Court by their number (Sala Primera, Sala Segunda, etc.). And some translators choose to render these literally as “First Chamber,” “Second Chamber.” But there is an ellipsis in these expressions, Sala Primera referring to the Sala Primera, de lo Civil or “Civil Division” of the Supreme Court, while Sala Segunda, de lo Penal denotes the Court’s “Criminal Division.” Indeed, the Spanish Supreme Court has five divisions: Sala Primera, de lo Civil (“Civil Division”); Sala Segunda, de lo Penal (“Criminal Division”); Sala Tercera, de lo Contencioso-Administrativo (“Administrative Division”); Sala Cuarta, de lo Social (“Labor Division”) and Sala Quinta, de lo Militar (“Military Division”). Thus instead of merely repeating the number, it may be more accurate to translate these references as “Civil Division,” “Criminal Division,” “Administrative Division,” etc.

Likewise, Magistrado de la Sala Segunda denotes a “Judge of the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court,” a Magistrado de la Sala Tercera is a “Judge of the Administrative Division of the Supreme Court,” while a Magistrado de la Sala Cuarta is a “judge of the Labor Division of the Supreme Court,” etc. In texts in which it is clear that the reference is to the Supreme Court, these three examples might also be translated simply as “Civil Division Judge,” “Criminal Division Judge” and “Labor Division Judge.”

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