Legal Spanish: A finca isn’t always a farm!

Finca may, of course, refer to a farm or other rural property (finca rural), and may also denote parcels of land or buildings in a city (finca urbana). Moreover, the term is often used generally as a synonym for inmueble (land, real estate or real property). Some simple examples include:

  • compraventa de finca hipotecada (sale of mortgaged land/property),
  • finca arrendada (leased property),
  • arrendamiento de fincas (leasing of property/land),
  • servidumbre de paso en beneficio de fincas enclavadas (landlocked property easement; right-of-way to landlocked property), or
  • facultad de deslindar y amojonar fincas (right to survey and mark property boundaries)

But finca has a special meaning in the context of recording rights on the Registro de la Propiedad (Land Register), being the basic unit of recorded property. As the Enciclopedia jurídica explains,

finca registral es el bien inmueble que constituye la base física del sistema registral inmobiliario. La llevanza del registro gira alrededor de la finca, por lo que ésta se define también como lo que es susceptible de abrir folio o registro particular en los libros de inscripciones. La finca ingresa en el registro mediante la llamada inmatriculación, que conlleva la apertura de folio registral destinado a dicha finca. La finca inmatriculada recibe un número propio. En el asiento de primera inscripción se describe la finca y se inscribe el derecho de su titular dominical, el inmatriculante.

Here are a few examples of how finca is used in the sense of finca registral:

  • finca inscrita (recorded property)
  • inmatriculación de la finca (initial entry of a property the Land Register)
  • finca no inmatriculada (non-recorded property/land)
  • modificación de la finca inscrita (amendment of property records)
  • subsanación de la doble o múltiple inmatriculación de una misma finca (rectification of double or multiple entries of the same recorded property)

Legal Spanish: When cortes is not a “court”

The internet sources that translate las Cortes Generales literally as “General Courts” are too numerous to mention. The expression obviously does not refer to a court, but rather denotes Spain’s bicameral legislature, the Spanish counterpart of the US Congress or the UK Parliament, including the Congreso de los Diputados (lower house) and the Senado (upper house). Several of the legislative assemblies of the Spanish regional governments (comunidades autónomas) are likewise called “cortes” (Cortes de Aragón, Cortes de Castilla-León, Cortes de Castilla-La Mancha, Corts Valencianes). And, in this context, rendering cortes literally as “courts” could prompt a miscue, suggesting that the institution in question is part of the Spanish judiciary or court system, and not a legislative assembly.

In that regard, although corte is indeed a synonym for tribunal de justicia in many Spanish-American jurisdictions, as used in Spain and as noted above, cortes (in the plural) generally refers to a legislative assembly, courts of justice being designated variously as juzgado, tribunal, audiencia, órgano jurisdiccional or órgano judicial, depending on the context. Corte is indeed sometimes used in Spain to refer to international courts, such as the Corte Penal Internacional (International Criminal Court in the Hague), but it is just as frequently known as the Tribunal Penal Internacional. Thus, to preclude any confusion with the court system las Cortes Generales should obviously be translated as “the Spanish Parliament,” and the autonomous community cortes as “regional (or) autonomous community legislative assemblies.”

In other respects, it should nevertheless be noted that in English “court” may also denote a legislative assembly, and the bicameral legislatures of the states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are indeed called the “General Court,” as were formerly the legislative assemblies of Vermont and Connecticut.

And, perhaps to add to the confusion, the “General Court” (formerly, the Court of First Instance) is one of two EU judicial bodies, which together with the Court of Justice of the European Union is tasked with ensuring uniform interpretation and application of EU law.