False Friends in Procedural Terminology: abstención vs. abstention

Oh, no! False Friends

abstención; abstention

abstenerse; abstain

These pairings are often cognates as, for example, in the context of electoral law when used in expressions such as abstenerse de votar (“to abstain from voting”) or tasa de abstención (“abstention rate”).

But in other areas of law these expressions may be false friends. In procedural contexts, a judge’s duty to refrain from hearing a case due to a conflict of interest or for other legally-established grounds is known as el deber de abstención. In this case abstención cannot be translated literally as “abstention,” but rather denotes a judge’s “recusal of himself.” When there are grounds for recusing oneself (causas de abstención), judges as well as court personnel, prosecutors and expert witnesses (funcionarios de la administración de justicia, fiscales y peritos) are obliged to recuse themselves (abstenerse). Thus, el juez se abstuvo de conocer el asunto indicates that the “judge recused himself from the case,” (rather than the literal rendering “the judge abstained/refrained from hearing the case” as it is sometimes rendered.

In other respects, both the parties to a civil or criminal proceeding and the public prosecutor (las partes y el Ministerio Fiscal) may file a “motion to recuse” or “motion for recusal” (promover incidente de recusación) if a judge does not recuse himself when deemed warranted. Thus, as indicated above, abstenerse refers to a judge’s recusal of himself, while the cognate recusar is the term used when a third party recuses a judge or other official.

It may be of interest to note that in US practice a judge may be recused (recusado) or may recuse himself (abstenerse), while “abstention” is often used to refer to a federal court’s relinquishment of jurisdiction to avoid conflict with a state court or agency.

See here for more on abstención, recusación, inhibición, declinatoria and inhibitoria

 

Corporate Law Terminology in the US and UK

us-uk-friendship

Corporate Law is a legal practice area in which there is a good bit of divergence in terminology between the US and UK. None of these examples can be considered true “equivalents” (in legal translation there are rarely equivalents and we can only hope to discover a few “kindred concepts”), but my lawyer students of Legal English tell me they find this list useful.

US UK closest Spanish law concept
sole proprietor sole trader empresario individual
corporate/corporation law company law Derecho societario
limited liability company (LLC) private limited company (Ltd.) sociedad (de responsabilidad) limitada (S.L. or S.R.L.)
corporation (Inc.) public limited company (plc) sociedad anónima (S.A.)
articles of incorporation memorandum of association acta constitutiva; escritura de constitución
(corporate) bylaws articles (of association) estatutos sociales
corporate/business purpose (company’s) objects objeto social
shares; stock* shares acciones
ordinary shares; common stock ordinary shares acciones ordinarias
preference shares; preferred stock preference shares acciones privilegiadas
shareholder; stockholder shareholder accionista
share capital; capital stock share capital capital social
annual shareholders /stockholders meeting annual general meeting (AGM) junta general ordinaria
special shareholders / stockholders meeting extraordinary general meeting (EGM) junta general extraordinaria
piercing the corporate veil lifting the corporate veil levantamiento del velo corporativo

*Several Legal English textbooks categorically state that “shares” and “shareholder” are the British English terms for acciones and accionista, while the American English equivalents are “stock” and “stockholder.” But this is not actually the case. “Share” and “shareholder” are the terms used in the American Bar Association’s Model Business Corporation Act (MBCA) and its revised version (RMBCA) adopted in whole or in part in over half of the fifty US states. Corporate law is state law in the United States and which of the two terms are preferred perhaps depends on the terminology chosen in a given state’s corporation law or code. For example, in the Delaware General Corporation Law it’s “stock” and “stockholder,” while the California Corporations Code uses “share” and “shareholder.”

Legal Synonyms (?): Distinguishing “transfer,” “sale,” “gift,” “conveyance” and “assignment”

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)

transfer; sale; gift; conveyance; assignment

These apparent “legal synonyms” are usually not interchangeable. Here are a few of their meanings and how they are used:

In the context of property law and sales transactions in general, “transfer” is a generic term denoting different modes of disposing of property or rights in property such as a transfer by sale, gift, conveyance or assignment. “Transfer” is likewise often used specifically in the context of transferring shares (transmisión de acciones) from a “transferor” (transmitente) to a “transferee” (adquirente), and it is common to speak of the “transferability of shares” (transmisibilidad de las acciones).

“Sale” (compraventa) is likewise used to refer to many types of commercial transactions such as the sale of goods (compraventa de mercancías) or the sale of real property (compraventa de bienes inmuebles), among many others. The parties to a sales contract are the “seller” (vendedor) and “buyer” or “purchaser” (comprador).

“Gift” (donación) denotes the voluntary transfer of property without compensation from a “donor” or “grantor” (donante) to a “donee” or “grantee” (donatario).

In this context “conveyance” also refers generally to the transfer of property or property rights, but along with the variant “conveyancing,” the term is used, particularly in the UK, to denote the transfer of title to real property (bienes inmuebles). In this context “conveyancing” may be rendered as compraventa de bienes inmuebles, while “conveyancer” refers to a person who provides conveyancing services (servicios de compraventa de bienes inmuebles).The parties to a conveyance are the “buyer” and “seller” and, less often, the “vendor” and “vendee.” In insolvency proceedings or in other contexts, there may an attempt to conceal assets by transferring them to a third party, often referred to as a “fraudulent conveyance” (enajenación fraudulenta) or “conveyance in fraud of creditors” (enajenación en fraude de acreedores).

“Assignment” (cesión) likewise refers to the transfer of rights in property but is most often used in the context of intellectual property rights, as in the “assignment of a patent or trademark” (cesión de una patente o marca) from an “assignor” (cedente) to an “assignee” (cesionario). “Assignment of contract” may likewise denote the transfer of one party’s rights in a contract to a third party (often rendered as cesión de contrato or cesión de la posición contractual).

Translating Spanish-English Court Terminology

Legal Synonyms,Confusing Terms(what's the difference between..._)(1)

sala; sección; sede; cámara

division; panel; chamber; courtroom; courthouse

Sala, sección, and sede are used variously to describe the physical and organizational divisions of Spanish courts. When referring to the overall jurisdictional organization of courts, sala is perhaps best translated as “division.” For example, the Spanish Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo) is divided into five salas (or jurisdicciones): 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”). In this context the expression la sala en pleno refers to a sitting of all of the judges in a given court division. And, thus, el pleno del tribunal or el tribunal en pleno denotes a “full court,” “en banc court” or “court en banc”, i.e., a session attended by all of the judges on a given court.

Sala can also refer to a “panel” of (usually three) judges who adjudicate cases. In this sense sala is a synonym of tribunal. Sección is likewise often used in this context to describe judges sitting in panels. In that regard and as an example, the Spanish Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) may meet en pleno (the full court of 12 judges), in two salas (half-court panels of six judges), or in four secciones (three-judge panels).

In other respects, the expression sala de gobierno refers to the panel or committee of judges (magistrados) who decide administrative and organizational matters in their respective courts (such as the Tribunal Supremo, the Tribunales Superiores de Justicia in each Autonomous Community and the Audiencia Nacional). The duties of the salas de gobierno include, among others, approving case assignment rules (normas de reparto), nominating and appointing judges pro tempore (magistrados suplentes and jueces de provision temporal), and exercising the disciplinary powers (facultades disciplinarias) vested in them in the Ley Orgánica del Poder Judicial.

Sala in the sense of sala de vistas denotes a “courtroom.” Thus, the expression Sala de Vistas de la Sala Segunda del Tribunal Supremo refers to a specific courtroom within the Criminal Division of the Supreme Court.

Although “chamber” is not often used to describe the jurisdictional or organizational divisions of US and English courts, many bilingual sources translate sala literally as “chamber,” perhaps due to the fact that it is used in several European courts in which French is an official language. For example, at the European Court of Human Rights a 7-judge panel is known as a “chamber,” while a 17-judge panel is a “Grand Chamber” (Grande Chambre in French). Likewise panels of three to five judges on the Court of Justice of the European Union are known as “chambers,” and its 13-judge panels are “Grand Chambers.”

In contrast, in Anglo-Amerian jurisdictions “chambers” (always plural) often denotes a judge’s private offices at a courthouse. Thus, an “in-chambers conference” refers to a meeting with a judge in his offices, rather than in the courtroom. By extension the Latin expression “in camera” (“in chambers”) means “in private,” and an “in camera hearing”* refers to a hearing from which the public has been excluded (audiencia a puerta cerrada) as opposed to a “hearing in open court” or “public hearing” (audiencia pública). In British English “chambers” may also denote the offices of a barrister or a group of barristers.

In other respects, in the context of parliamentary practice cámara is not “chamber,” but rather is more often rendered as “house:” cámara alta (“upper house”); cámara baja (“lower house”); Cámara de los Lores (“House of Lords”); Cámara de los Comunes (“House of Commons”), etc.

And finally, sede often denotes the physical location of a court, the “courthouse” itself and, depending on the context, the often seen expression en sede judicial may be translated as “at the court,” “in court,” “before the judge,” or simply with the adjective “judicial:” Declaró en sede judicial (he testified in court/before the judge); comparecer en sede judicial (to appear in court); determinación de responsibilidad civil en sede judicial (judicial determination of civil liability), etc. By extension, if en sede judicial means en el tribunal, then en sede policial must likewise mean en comisaría, while en sede parliamentaria denotes en el Parlamento. Although widely used in the press, this peculiar use of “en sede” has been described as a “cursilería” (Antonio Burgos, ABC, 5 July 2004) and as “abusivo y repetitivo” (Fundéu).

*With the terminology reform initiated in the Civil Procedure Act 1997, in England and Wales an in camera hearing is now known as a “hearing in private.”

Mistranslation? (“Next of kin”)

Who is my next of kin_

Yesterday I encountered a misleading translation in an online glossary on inheritance law terminology that I believe is worth noting. There the expression “next of kin” was rendered in Spanish as pariente consanguíneo más cercano. My first thought was, “What? My husband of 46 years isn’t my ‘next of kin’?” And of course, the Spanish definition is incomplete because “next of kin” denotes “the person or persons most closely related to a decedent by blood or affinity” (Black’s Law Dictionary), affinity (afinidad* in Spanish) being “kinship by marriage.”

Knowing someone’s next of kin is important in case of an emergency, and is used to distribute the estate of a decedent who has died intestate. Several sources that I’ve checked indicate that in many jurisdictions there is no legal definition of “next of kin.” But for what it’s worth, here are explanations of the term chosen at random from a US, UK and Australian perspective:

  • From Petrov Law Firm (California): Generally, the list of next-of-kin is as follows: spouse, children, parents, siblings, grandparents. Without a will to follow, a probate court will go down the list until it reaches a living person and assign that person your entire estate.
  • From Howells Solicitors in the UK: “Next of kin usually means your nearest blood relative. In the case of a married couple or a civil partnership it usually means their husband or wife. Next of kin is a title that can be given, by you, to anyone from your partner to blood relatives and even friends. It is also possible to name more than one person as your next of kin. This is a title that is primarily used in order for emergency services to know who to keep informed about an individual’s condition and treatment.
  • From Legalvision in Australia: The NSW Coroners Act 2009 assists in determining who will be a person’s next of kin. Where the Coroner is involved and a decision must be made by a deceased’s next of kin, the Coroner will decide who that person is based on an order of priority. First, the deceased’s spouse, then adult children, parents, adult siblings, then lastly any person named as executor under the person’s will, or who was their legal personal representative immediately before death. A spouse also includes a de facto partner.

*afinidad—parentesco que mediante el matrimonio se establece entre cada cónyuge y los parientes del otro (Diccionario Jurídico Thompson-Aranzadi)

Confused by European Institutions? (European Council; Council of the European Union; Council of Europe)

flag_yellow_high

These three institutions are sometimes confused in translation, Consejo Europeo often being mistranslated as “Council of Europe,” rather than as “European Council,” even in academic publications. Examples I have encountered include mistranslating Directiva xxxx/xx CE del Parlamento Europeo y del Consejo Europeo as “EC Directive xxxx/xx of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe,” or rendering the expression “cuando el Consejo Europeo empiece a adoptar medidas en codecisión con el Parlamento…” incorrectly as “when the Council of Europe begins to adopt codecision procedures with the Parliament…”.

Likewise, in the other direction, “Council of Europe” has often been confused with Consejo Europeo when translating, for example, “Council of Europe Committee of Ministers” as Comité de Ministros del Consejo Europeo (rather than Comité de Ministros del Consejo de Europa) or rendering “Publication of the Council of Europe, Strasbourg” as Publicación del Consejo Europeo de Estrasburgo. And an article entitled “The Limited Powers of the European Parliament and the Council of Europe” most likely intended to address the limited powers of the European Parliament and the European Council.

So, to sort this out…

The European Council (Consejo Europeo) and the Council of the European Union (Consejo de la Unión Europea) are both institutions of the European Union; the Council of Europe (Consejo de Europa) is not.

Briefly, the European Council (Consejo Europeo) is composed of the heads of state or government of all EU member states, together with its president (currently Mr. Donald Tusk) and the president of the European Commission (at the time of this writing, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker). At its quarterly summits the EU Council defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union, setting its policy agenda and adopting conclusions identifying issues to be addressed and actions to be taken.

At meetings of the Council of the European Union (Consejo de la Unión Europea) ministers of the governments of EU member states adopt laws and coordinate policies in their respective policy areas. As the main decision-making body (together with the European Parliament), the Council negotiates and passes EU laws (based on proposals from the EU Commission), develops foreign and security policy, concludes international agreements and adopts the EU budget. The Council’s presidency rotates among member states every six months. Austria currently holds the presidency until December 31, 2018.

European Council summits and Council of the European Union meetings are generally held in Brussels. Since these “councils” are easily confused, the former may be thought of as a summit of heads of state, while the latter is a meeting of government ministers in their respective areas.

In contrast to the above, the Council of Europe (Consejo de Europa) is a totally separate international organization located in Strasbourg, France, devoted to working toward European integration and protecting human rights since its founding in 1949. The principal achievement of the Council of Europe (CoE) is the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights (Convenio Europeo de Derechos Humanos, not to be confused with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union—Carta de los Derechos Fundamentales de la Unión Europea). In close relation with the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR (Tribunal Europeo de Derechos Humanos, TEDH) rules on applications concerning alleged human rights violations in the 47 Council of Europe member states. All European Union member states are likewise members of the Council of Europe. Negotiations for the EU to accede to the European Convention on Human Rights are ongoing.

Perhaps two additional minor points of confusion are the fact that the EU Parliament’s seat is in Strasbourg where the Council of Europe is located, and both the Council of Europe and the European Union share the same flag (a circle of twelve gold stars on a sky blue background).

Proof that that these institutions are often confused, even by legal professionals, is evidenced in the fact that in a Duke University Law Library research guide on the Council of Europe, the librarians thought it necessary to warn students that “although it has a close relationship with the European Union, the Council of Europe (Conseil de l’Europe, Consejo de Europa, Europarat, Consiglio d’Europa) is not part of the EU. Be especially careful not to confuse it with an EU institution called the European Council (Conseil européen, Consejo Europeo, Europäisher Rat, Consiglio europeo).

Read more here:

European Council

Council of the European Union

Council of Europe