False Friends: When doctrina isn’t “doctrine”


Español Jurídico

Doctrina and “doctrine” may certainly be considered cognates when they denote general tenets or principles such as, for example, la doctrina del fruto del árbol envenenado (the fruit-of-the-poisonous tree doctrine) or the doctrina del levantamiento del velo societario (the veil doctrine [or] the piercing of the corporate veil doctrine).

But when referring to the authoritative writing of jurists, legal scholars and law professors, “doctrine” is not an appropriate translation for doctrina. As used in Spanish legal contexts, doctrina most often denotes the writings of law professors and legal commentators, and may be appropriately translated as “legal scholarship,” “academic opinion,” “legal (or) academic writing,” or “the opinion of legal scholars,” etc. Thus, in this context an expression such as autorizada doctrina is “authoritative academic opinion,” and a principle that is aceptado en doctrina is “accepted by legal scholars.”

In other respects, in the context of court decisions doctrina is often an ellipsis for the expression doctrina jurisprudencial and denotes “caselaw.” Thus, as used in the opinions of the Spanish Constitutional Court (Tribunal Constitucional) or Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo), expressions such as nuestra reiterada doctrina or nuestra doctrina pacífica refer to the courts’ “established (or) settled caselaw,” while recurso de casación para la unificación de doctrina denotes a “Supreme Court appeal to unify conflicting caselaw.” And, in more general contexts, the expression legislación, jurisprudencia y doctrina refers to “laws, caselaw and legal scholarship (or) academic opinion.”


Multiple Meanings of paro in Labor Law Contexts

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

Paro has several legal meanings, many of them in the context of labor law. In one sense, paro is an informal synonym of desempleo (“unemployment”), as in estar en (el) paro (“to be unemployed,” “to be out of work”—also, estar desempleado), or cobrar el paro (“to receive/to draw unemployment benefits;” “to receive/to collect an unemployment check”). In this sense tasa de paro is tasa de desempleo (“unemployment rate”), and paro is used with this meaning in a number of expressions such as paro estacional (“seasonal unemployment”); paro estructural (“structural unemployment”); paro cíclico (“cyclical unemployment”); paro temporal (“temporary unemployment”); paro coyuntural (“contextual unemployment”) or paro de larga duración (“long-term unemployment”).

Paro is likewise used in two different expressions in the context of labor disputes. In that regard, paro may designate a concerted “work stoppage,” a labor action that may fall short of a formal strike: El comité de empresa convocó un paro de 24 horas (“The workers’ committee called a 24-hour work stoppage”). And, in other respects, paro patronal (more often termed cierre patronal) is the Spanish equivalent of what is known in English as a “lockout” (or less often a “shut out”), an action taken by management, preventing employees from working or even entering workplace premises as means of pressuring them to accept employer demands.