Don’t Believe Everything You Read in the Press!

Dear Translator Colleagues: Don’t believe everything you read in the press! Get your Legal Spanish from reliable sources. Journalists, even those who specialize in periodismo judicial sometimes get it wrong. One of the most blatant errors that I’ve noticed lately in my readings is the use of the peculiar expression auto de acusación. Here’s what I mean:

  • La juez amplia la acusación en el caso de los aceites…*
  • contra el nuevo auto de acusación de la Juez podrá interponerse recurso de reforma en los próximos tres días.*
  • El Fiscal pide para él tres años y medio en la sombra y, en su auto de acusación, el Ministerio Público califica al ex directivo de “omnímodo”…**
  • Según el auto de acusación de la Fiscalía de Melilla…***

So what’s wrong here? Well, first of all, there is no such thing as an auto de acusación! An auto is a reasoned judicial decision (resolución judicial que necesariamente tiene que estar motivada). So obviously only judges can issue judicial decisions known as autos; prosecutors (fiscales; la Fiscalía; el Ministerio Fiscal) do not issue autos. In contrast, judges do not accuse: that’s the job of prosecutors in their escritos de acusación. As my maestro Professor Moreno Catena clearly explains “La acusación proviene de la parte acusadora; la imputación del órgano judicial que investiga; la defensa la ejerce el acusado-imputado; y la pena la impone el órgano que juzga.”****

Thus, judges (jueces o magistrados) imputan (ahora, investigan), procesan, juzgan, condenan (or absuelven) and imponen penas in their autos or sentencias. Prosecutors (fiscales) acusan in their escritos de acusación (never autos de acusación), also known in ordinary felony proceedings (proceso penal ordinario) as calificaciones provisionales.

*http://www.puertorealhoy.es/2016/11/02/la-juez-amplia-la-acusacion-del-caso-de-los-aceites-usados-a-los-ex-ediles-del-pa/

**http://www.economiadigital.es/es/notices/2013/05/ricard_pages_el_banquero_omnimodo_41007.php

***http://elfarodemelilla.es/2016/09/29/las-claves-del-auto-del-caso-arquitecto/

****Víctor Moreno Catena and Valentín Cortés Domínguez, Derecho Procesal Penal. Madrid: Tirant lo Blanch, 2003, pp. 137-138.

What is a procurador ?

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In most legal proceedings in Spain it is mandatory that a party be defended by an abogado (or) letrado (“lawyer;” “attorney”) and represented by a procurador who serves as a liaison between the lawyer, client and court, filing pleadings and other documents, receiving court orders and generally checking up on the status of the cases assigned to him. There is no equivalent in Anglo-American courts, and procurador has been mistranslated variously as “lawyer,” “attorney,” “barrister,” “solicitor,” “legal representative,” and even “paralegal” (!), among others.

But let’s look at some of these suggested translations. Procurador can’t be accurately rendered as either “lawyer,” “attorney” or “barrister” because, although procuradores hold law degrees, they do not defend clients in court as do lawyers/attorneys (in the US) and barristers (in England and Wales). As mentioned above, that’s the job of abogados/letrados. “Solicitor” is also a mistranslation when used as a rendering for procurador. If you need a contract drafted, want to make a will or require legal counsel, in England and Wales, you turn to a solicitor. Procuradores provide no such services. In fact, procuradores are usually hired by the lawyers themselves and rarely have direct contact with clients. “Legal representative” is also a poor choice when translating procurador, since the expression may denote any person who has been empowered to act on behalf of another, and is not necessarily a lawyer. Persons holding power of attorney (poder de representación) or appointed as executors (albacea) of a will are legal representatives. And as fully qualified lawyers procuradores certainly cannot be characterized as paralegals (con todos mis respetos por los paralegals).

Thus the difficulty is to find an appropriate translation for procurador, and I admit that over the years I have changed my mind a couple of times as to how to best render the term. I initially decided on “court representative,” but this translation may be misleading. Indeed, in the context of providing legal defense for a client in court, representación and “representation” are not cognates. In English (among many other meanings) “representation” refers to one’s being represented by a lawyer in court (“representation by counsel”). In Spain, however, representación generally refers to one’s being represented in court by a procurador, while representation by counsel (asistencia letrada) is known variously as defensa, defensa técnica, dirección técnica or sometimes asistencia técnica. A party is said to be representada en juicio por el Procurador de los Tribunales XXX y defendida (or) asistida por el Letrado YYY. Thus Spanish clients are “represented” in court by procuradores and “defended” by their abogados/letrados, and the expression representación y defensa is most often simply a synonym for procurador y abogado/letrado. In short, referring to procuradores as “court representatives” might prompt a miscue, since in Anglo-American courts lawyers both represent and defend their clients.

I later thought that perhaps “court agent” would be an appropriate rendering for procurador. But “court agent” might be interpreted to mean “agent of the court,” suggesting that procuradores are actually personnel employed by the courts, which is certainly not the case. For now I have settled on “party agent,” (procuradores being agents who represent parties at court), but I am certainly aware that this expression doesn’t fully convey the meaning of the term (and I would welcome other suggestions!). Several colleagues have recommended adding a “Translator’s Note” indicating that procuradores are a feature of the Spanish judicial system and serve as intermediaries between lawyers and the court.

N.B. The Spanish procurador de los tribunales should not be confused with the term procurador as used in Mexico. In Mexico procurador is “prosecutor” (fiscal in Spain), and, thus, for US audiences and in this context the term is often rendered as “prosecutor,” but also “district attorney” or “D.A.”.

(Photo credit: from the website of Procuradora Rosa María Mateo Crossa, Málaga)

 

What is a voto particular ?

Voto particular is a “separate opinion” offered by a judge in response to the majority opinion of his colleagues in a judgment in a given case. The expression is often thought to refer exclusively to a judge’s disagreement with his colleagues and thus has been rendered on many occasions as “dissenting opinion.” However, voto particular may also denote a “concurring opinion” in which a judge agrees with the majority opinion but for different reasons. This distinction is made in Spanish by differentiating between voto particular disidente (or) discrepante (dissenting opinion) and voto particular concurrente (concurring opinion).

In other respects, in the language of court decisions formular voto particular disidente (or) discrepante is simply “to dissent,” while formular voto particular concurrente is “to concur.” Adherirse is used to denote a judge’s “joining” another’s opinion: adherirse al voto particular disidente/discrepante o concurrente (“to join a dissenting or concurring opinion”). Thus, for example, voto particular concurrente que formula el Magistrado D. Luis López Guerra al que se adhiere el Magistrado D. Tomás S. Vives Antón would appear in English as “Judge Luis López Guerra, with whom Judge Tomás S. Vives joins, concurring.” Likewise, in English an expression such as “Justice White, with whom Justice Blackmun and Justice Stevens join, dissenting” denotes a voto particular disidente (or) discrepante formulado por el Magistrado White, al que se adhieren los Magistrados Blackmun y Stevens.

Español jurídico: Difference between emplazamiento and citación

Legal Spanish for Translators

A translator colleague recently asked me about the difference is between emplazamiento and citación, given that both generally refer to a “summons”. Well the answer is right there in the terms themselves. In an emplazamiento the recipient is given a term (plazo) in which to respond to the content of the summons. That’s why an emplazamiento is the document served with a complaint (escrito de demanda), since the defendant is given a legally-established term in which to file an answer (contestar a la demanda). In contrast, citación is generally a summons to appear in court (a “cita”), specifying the time and day that the recipient must comply. But unless a translation requires distinguishing between the two, they are both a “summons.”

Simple definitions of emplazamiento and citación appear in the Wolters Kluwer legal guides:

El emplazamiento junto con la citación son dos actos de comunicación de vital importancia, ya que son los actos de comunicación a través de los cuales el demandado va a poder entrar en el proceso, o bien personarse ante otra instancia. A diferencia de la citación en la que al demandado se le cita para que comparezca en un día concreto al juicio,… en el emplazamiento se le concede al demandado un plazo para que pueda personarse y contestar a la demanda presentada contra él.

Read more here

 

Personification in Legal Spanish

In Spanish certain legal concepts are customarily personified and, although not a mistranslation per se, when rendered literally such expressions may sound strange to native English speakers. One of the most common examples is the personification of the shareholders meeting in Spanish corporate documents. When reflecting decisions taken at a shareholders meeting, the minutes will, for example, typically indicate that the Junta General acordó un aumento de capital (or) ratificó el nombramiento de los consejeros. Rather than “the shareholders meeting approved (or) ratified…,” in English this would more likely be expressed as “The shareholders approved a capital increase” (or) “ratified the appointment of directors at the annual meeting.”

Likewise, in the context of parliamentary law, el constituyente often denotes a “constitutional convention (or) congress” (asamblea constituyente), rather than an individual member of that body. Thus, el constituyente de 1812 refers collectively to the assembly (Cortes de Cádiz) that drafted the Constitución de 1812, and el constituyente de 1978 denotes jointly the Spanish Parliament (Cortes Generales) and the people of Spain (in referendum) who approved Spain’s present Constitución de 1978. In this context, in addition to “constitutional assembly (or) convention” el constituyente might also be translated as “the drafters (or) authors of the Constitution.”

Similarly, the parliament, legislature or legislative branch of government is often personified as “el legislador,” which would sound strange if rendered literally as “the legislator.” Thus, medidas introducidas por el legislador refers to “measures adopted by parliament (or) the legislature,” and la reforma llevada a cabo por el legislador refers to a “legislative reform,” while the expression el legislador estatal distinguishes the central Spanish parliament (Cortes Generales) from the legislative assemblies of the Autonomous Communities, which are often referred to as “el legislador autónomico.” In addition, references to el legislador demócratico denote the present Spanish parliament under the post-Franco Constitution of 1978. In this and similar contexts, in addition to “the Parliament” or “the Legislature,” el legislador may also be rendered simply as “lawmakers.”

Terminology of Spanish Business Vehicles

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There is often much confusion in the translation of the five principal types of Spanish “business vehicles” (formas jurídicas de la empresa). The simplest form of business entity in which a person goes into business for himself is the empresa individual, tantamount to the “sole proprietorship” in the United States. The owner is known as an empresario (or) comerciante individual, called “sole proprietor” in the US and “sole trader” in  the UK.

A second type of business entity includes three forms of sociedades personalistas (a generic term for “partnerships”), including the sociedad colectiva or S.C. (also called sociedad regular colectiva, or S.R.C.), which is a “general partnership;” the sociedad comanditaria (simple), or S. Com. (also known as a sociedad en comandita or S. en Com.), which is a “limited partnership;” and the sociedad comanditaria por acciones, or S. Com. p. A., a hybrid “partnership limited by shares” that has many of the features of a sociedad anónima. In sociedades colectivas (“general partnerships”) all partners (called socios colectivos) are “general partners,” sharing management duties and having unlimited joint and several liability, unless the partnership agreement provides otherwise. In addition to the general partners, sociedades comanditarias likewise have socios comanditarios (“limited partners”) whose libility is limited to the amount of their contributions to the partnership, but who have no management rights. Sociedades comanditarias por acciones have at least one general partner (socio colectivo) in addition to the other socios who may be called accionistas (“shareholders”), given that partner interests in this type of entity are divided into shares (acciones).

The sociedad de responsabilidad limitada or S.R.L. (also termed simply sociedad limitada, or S.L.) is Spain’s “limited liability company,” while the sociedad anónima, or S.A. is a “corporation.” (In British English they may perhaps be described respectively as a “private limited company” and a “public limited company.”) The three principal differences between a sociedad limitada and sociedad anónima may be summarized as follows (there are quite a few more):

Sociedad Limitada (S.L.)

Sociedad Anónima (S.A.)

owner interests are known as participaciones, and cannot by law be called acciones (shares) nor can they be publicly traded owner interests are called acciones (shares) and may (or may not be) publicly traded
minimum capital is €3,000 that must be fully subscribed and paid up when the company is formed minimum capital is €60,000 that must be fully subscribed and 25% paid up upon incorporation (higher minimums may be required of certain types of entity such as banks and insurance companies)

 

 may not issue bonds or other securities may issue bonds and other securities

Both sociedades limitadas and sociedades anónimas may be formed by a single member under the names sociedad limitada unipersonal or S.L.U. (a “single-member limited liability company”) and sociedad anónima unipersonal or S.A.U. (a “sole shareholder corporation”). Both S.L.s and S.A.s may likewise be partially employee owned, and will operate as either a sociedad limitada laboral or S.L.L. (“employee-owned limited liability company”) or a sociedad anónima laboral or S.A.L. (“employee-owned corporation”). Corporations whose shares are traded on a stock market are known as sociedades anónimas cotizadas.

Other, perhaps less common forms of doing business in Spain include:

  • sociedades profesionales (“professional entities”)
  • sociedades cooperativas (“cooperatives;” “co-ops”)
  • agrupaciones de interés económico (“economic interest groupings”)
  • uniones temporales de empresas (“temporary business alliances”)
  • asociaciones (“associations”)
  • fundaciones (“foundations”)

 

Español jurídico: Fundamentos jurídicos (o) Fundamentos de Derecho

These expressions are often translated broadly as “legal grounds” or “legal basis,” which may be appropriate renderings in certain contexts. But it should be noted that they have very specific meanings when used in Spanish court opinions. In Spain judgments (sentencias) are commonly divided into two sections, Antecedentes de Hecho and Fundamentos Jurídicos or Fundamentos de Derecho. The former refer to the facts that the court deems proved, the “facts as found,” while the latter refer to the legal grounds or points of law on which the court is basing its final ruling (fallo). Following the terminology of US procedure, in this context Antecedentes de Hecho might be appropriately translated as “Findings of Fact,” while Fundamentos Jurídicos or Fundamentos de Derecho may be rendered as “Conclusions of Law.”