Civil cases in Spain
The other day I stumbled across a good resource for legal translators here. It explains civil procedure in Spain and defines and gives English translations for some of the key Spanish legal terms and concepts involved.
It shows, for instance, the difference between the juicio oral and the juicio verbal, which are different things, although they are used interchangeable on occasions—just to make it interesting.
The important thing to know about the juicio oral with respect to the juicio verbal is that it is part of both civil and criminal proceedings. It’s when the parties make submissions and declarations before the judge and the evidence is examined.
The cited page describes the juicio oral as the hearing of evidence, although (public) trial/hearing are also useful translations, depending on the context.
The juicio verbal, on the other hand, is a type of civil procedure for smaller claims (for less than €6,000, among other criteria), as opposed to the juicio ordinario, which is for larger claims.
Fast track claim/procedure is probably a good translation for juicio verbal for the UK and small claim might be useful for other jurisdictions and a good starting point for a more specific, neutral or descriptive rendering, if that’s what’s required. Oral proceedings, however, may cause confusion.
The problem with juicio oral and juicio verbal is that juicio oral is quite often used to talk about the juicio verbal (i.e., the fast track/small claim procedure). This can be confusing, but if you know the difference between them, the context should clear up which concept is being talked about.
More resources for legal translators
Aside from at the link given above, which came through Google, this document can also be found at legalenglishteachersgomezacebo’s Wikispace, which has a lot of other legal resources on the Spanish and English legal systems.
There are three pages of downloadable files, some of which have titles as promising as: “Civil vs. Criminal Law”, “English Court Structure” and “Internet Resources for Law”. There are also a lot of other files that seem to come from a course of some kind, one on legal English I suppose given the name of the Wikispace.
Stop press — even more resources for legal translators
I just found another very good and more thorough resource on civil proceedings in Spain that seems to come from the same people who put together the Wikispace collection:
Civil cases in England and Wales
Just for the sake of comparison (which is generally worth it with these things), this page gives a similar rundown of how civil procedure works in England and Wales and has some useful terminology.
Similar dynamic for civil cases in England and Spain
Although Spain has a civil law system, Spanish civil proceedings are adversarial (Merino-Blanco, 2006)—a characteristic usually associated with common law systems that is increasingly becoming a feature of civil law jurisdictions. In the case of Spain, this process was moved along somewhat by the coming into force of the LEC.
What does this mean for someone translating legal documents from Spanish to English? Well, quite a lot actually. It makes the legal translator’s job easier for two reasons:
1) This common adversarial nature means that claims in both jurisdictions fit into civil litigation processes that follow comparable dynamics. So, in trying to understand a Spanish legal document or, specifically, a civil claim, if you step back and think about what is most likely to be happening at each stage according to this dynamic (take a look at a comparable English document for help with this), it can make it easier to decode the text.
2) It means that a lot of the procedural concepts are similar in both systems. You can get quite a bit of terminology just by comparing claims (superficially even, as a lot of the concepts are found in the headings) from Spain and England. As the procedures are similar, a lot of the same concepts have to appear in the texts at some stage, all you have to do is identify them.
So, there you go, sometimes things aren’t that complicated after all.