Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 13

verificarse - tener verificativo The meaning of the verb verificar is obvious. It means "to verify." But when the reflexive form of the verb (verificarse) is used, it takes on a meaning that is anything but obvious. The reflexive verb verificarse is a synonym of tener lugar and thus means "to take place" or "to be held." Thus, for example, Se verificó la reunión con sólo cinco asistentes means "The meeting was held with only five people in attendance." There is another synonym of verificarse in Mexican Spanish: tener verificativo. So in Mexican Spanish the sentence above could also be written as follows: La reunión tuvo verificativo con sólo cinco asistentes.

Ellipsis in Legal Spanish

Ellipsis in the sense of leaving the noun out of a phrase that consists of a noun plus an adjective is common in Spanish. For example, people refer to a tarjeta postal (post card) as simply una postal. Other common examples include referring to a tren expreso (express train) as un expreso (which an English reader might take to be a kind of coffee drink) and calling a página web simply una web (which an English reader might understand to be the Internet itself, instead of merely a page on it). Visite nuestra web means "visit our website" not "visit our intranet" or something like that. It seems to me that this kind of ellipsis (which involves using adjectives as nouns) rarely occurs in Englis

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish -12

sentencia absolutoria, sentencia condenatoria In our post on the legal Spanish of Chile, we saw two terms that are typical of criminal procedure (querella and denuncia) being used in a civil context. That was the tip that they must have a different meaning. Two other terms whose meaning varies depending on whether they are used in a civil context or a criminal context are sentencia absolutoria and sentencia condenatoria. The first thing to remember that sentencia is a false friend and does not mean "sentence" (which is condena or pena in Spanish) but rather "judgment." A sentencia condenatoria in a civil lawsuit is a "judgment for the plaintiff," while a sentencia absolutoria is a "judgment

Hidden Meanings in Legal English - 2

The verb "to sound" has an unexpected meaning in legal English, where it can mean "to be actionable (in)." Consider this sentence from a decision of the California Supreme Court (Santisas v. Goodin, 17 Cal. 4th 599 - Cal: Supreme Court 1998): "The case did not present an issue concerning the right to recover attorney fees under a contractual attorney fee provision as applied to claims or actions sounding in tort rather than contract and thus outside the scope of section 1717." To understand this sentence, you could rewrite the phrase in question like this: tort claims or actions rather than contract claims or actions. In other words, "claims sounding in tort" means "claims based on a tort" o

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 11

registro - registrar Un registro is obviously a "register" (when you mean the book in which information is recorded) or a "registry" (when you mean the office where the records are kept), but it has a second meaning--one that is important in el derecho procesal penal (criminal procedure). Registro is also the word for "search" and the related verb registrar means "to search." Thus, for example, Article 18 of the Spanish Constitution states the following: El domicilio es inviolable. Ninguna entrada o registro podrá hacerse en él sin consentimiento del titular o resolución judicial, salvo en caso de flagrante delito. An inexperienced translator may take this to mean that "no record may be made

Legal Spanish of Chile

Article 549 of the Chilean Código de Procedimiento Civil (Code of Civil Procedure) provides for four figuras jurídicas (legal concepts) whose names are likely to confuse translators who are only familiar with the legal Spanish of countries other than Chile: querella de amparo, querella de restitución, denuncia de obra nueva and denuncia de obra ruinosa. The first two of these figuras use the term querella, which in other countries is solely a criminal procedure term and refers to the criminal complaint filed by the victim of a crime that can only be prosecuted at the victim's request. Examples of these crimes, which are also called delitos de acción privada, include adultery and defamation (

Legal Spanish of Ecuador

avocar, avocarse, abocarse, decurrir The two verbs avocarse and abocarse are pronounced exactly alike, and for that reason Spanish speakers sometimes write one of them when they mean the other. Abocarse is a verb used only in Latin America (not in Spain) and is a synonym of dedicarse. So se aboca a la redacción del contrato means "he is drafting the contract" (literally "he is dedicating himself to the drafting of the contract"). Avocarse, on the other hand, is used only in legal language and means "to exercise reach-down jurisdiction." An example would be La Corte Suprema se avocó el conocimiento de la causa, meaning "The Supreme Court exercised reach-down jurisdiction over the case" or "Th

Style in Spanish Legal Translation

In legal English, once you use a term you must repeat that term throughout the document you are drafting. If you use a synonym instead, it may be taken to mean something other than the original term you used. In legal Spanish, the rule seems to be just the opposite. Writers of legal Spanish seem to use every synonym they can think of to avoid using the same noun twice. Thus, for example, the Constitution may first be referred to as la Constitución. Two lines later, it may be referred to as la Magna Carta (which is especially confusing for English readers, since the Magna Carta in English specifically refers to a document signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215). In the course of the documen

imputar - Fiscal - acusación particular - acusación popular

In 2014 Spain's Princess Cristina, the Duchess of Palma, was imputada (formally named a suspect) in the corruption case surrounding her husband Iñaki Urdangarin. As such, she was summoned to hacer declaración (testify) before the juez instructor (investigating judge) José Castro. In December 2014 it was revealed that Judge Castro had issued an auto de apertura de juicio oral against the Princess, ordering her to stand trial for tax evasion. This order is controversial because neither el Fiscal anticorrupción (the public prosecutor, in this case Pedro Horrach) nor the Acusador particular (the private prosecutor on behalf of the victim, in this case the Abogacía del Estado on behalf of the Ag

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 10

Presentación Presentación looks like "presentation" and means just that in some contexts. Note, however, that a "presentation" at a conference is called a ponencia and the presenter is called a ponente. In legal Spanish, presentación has two meanings. The first is "filing." So la presentación del escrito ante el tribunal means "the filing of the motion with the court." The other meaning is "presentment." La presentación del cheque al pago means "presentment of the check for payment."

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 9

Propiedad Propiedad looks very much like the English word "property," which is usually the first term that comes to mind when a native English speaker sees it. It is important to note, however, that the most common word for "property" in Spanish is bienes (not propiedad). Bienes inmuebles are real property (or realty) and bienes muebles are personal property (or personalty). What propiedad usually means is "ownership." As such it is a synonym of titularidad and dominio, both of which also mean "ownership." So la propiedad de las acciones means "the ownership of the shares" (not "the property of shares"--which doesn't make any sense anyway). Propiedad also has a nonlegal meaning: in some cont

Aforamiento - Fuero de Corte

Yesterday's paper brought news that the Spanish Supreme Court has agreed to hear a paternity suit against former Spanish King Juan Carlos, who abdicated last June in favor of his son, now King Felipe VI. While Juan Carlos was king, Article 56(3) of the Spanish Constitution gave him immunity from any kind of lawsuit: La persona del Rey es inviolable y no está sujeta a responsabilidad. This reflects the age-old idea that "the king can do no wrong." Shortly before he abdicated, an organic law was enacted granting aforamiento to the king who has abdicated (King Juan Carlos) and his consort (Queen Sofía), the new queen consort (in this case Queen Letizia), and the princess of Asturias (Princess

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 8

El Gobierno – las Cortes - el Congreso The concept of separation of powers is common in Western countries and is known as separación de poderes or división de poderes in Spanish. The three branches of government are usually referred to as el Poder Ejecutivo (the Executive Branch), el Poder Legislativo (the Legislative Branch) and el Poder Judicial (the Judicial Branch). These three terms will be understood in all of the twenty countries where Spanish is the official language, but different terms are used in the constitutions of some of those countries. For example, Article 113 of the Constitution of Colombia provides that the government is divided into la Rama Ejecutiva, la Rama Legislativa

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 7

Entrada Entrada obviously means "entrance" or "entry" and can also refer to a "ticket" that allows you to enter a play or a concert, but in the legal Spanish of Spain, it has another meaning that can confuse you if you are unaware of it. In Spain entrada also means "deposit" or "downpayment" on a house or condominium. Thus, for example, a sign that says Venta de pisos sin entrada is not an attempt to sell apartments without any entrance door, but instead means "apartments for sale: no downpayment required." Pagamos la entrada del piso doesn't mean "we paid to enter the apartment" but "we made the downpayment on the apartment." In Mexico a downpayment is called an enganche. In Argentina they

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 6

Redactar The Spanish verb redactar is so similar to the English "to redact" that it would be reasonable to assume that they mean the same thing. Unfortunately, however, this pair of verbs is an example of what linguists call "false friends." The English verb "to redact" means "deleting or masking portions of a document so that privileged or objectionable information cannot be seen." The picture above shows a document that has been "redacted." The way to say "redact" in Spanish is tachar información confidencial. The meaning of the Spanish verb redactar is almost the opposite of "to redact." Redactar means "to draft or" to draw up" a document and is a synonym of confeccionar and elaborar. For

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 5

tratado, doctrina, jurisprudencia One of the legal meanings of tratado is fairly well known. All learners of Spanish seem to know that tratado means "treaty." And indeed it does. Thus, for example, a tratado de doble imposición is a "double taxation treaty (DTT)." In this context it can also be translated as "agreement." A tratado de libre comercio is a "free trade agreement (FTA)." Less commonly known is the fact that tratado also means "treatise," as in tratado de derecho procesal civil, a "treatise on civil procedure." Other common examples include tratado de derecho civil (treatise on civil law), tratado de derecho penal (treatise on criminal law), tratado de derecho administrativo (trea

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 4

Juzgar and adjudicar Juzgar is obviously related to juez, the word for judge, so the first translation that comes to mind is "to judge." In certain contexts, that is the right solution. Take this verse from the Bible: No juzguéis, para que no seáis juzgados. This is translated as "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Matt. 7:1). But when the word following juzgar is a "person" or a "case" the correct translation is "to try." Será juzgado por dos delitos means "He will be tried for two crimes" not "He will be judged for two crimes." Similarly, La causa será juzgada por lo penal means "The case will be tried in criminal court." Another thing to note is that adjudicar never means "to adjudicate."

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 3

Entidad At first glance, the translation of entidad appears obvious, and indeed, it is usually translated as "entity." Note, however, that Spanish expresses the common legal phrase "any person or entity" without using this word. In Mexican legal Spanish, you will see toda persona física o moral and in Argentine legal Spanish toda persona natural o jurídica. Both of those phrases mean "any person or entity." Entidad also has a hidden meaning. It is an elevated synonym of importancia. Thus, for example, the phrase un vacío legal de cierta entidad means "a fairly significant gap in the law." Un problema de cierta entidad is "a fairly significant problem" not a "certain entity's problem."

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish - 2

Entender Every beginning Spanish student learns that entender means "to understand." After all, no entiendo (I don't understand) is one of the most useful phrases in a beginner's repertoire when he or she is confronted with a native speaker talking at full speed. Unfortunately, though, most students don't go on to learn about the second meaning of entender, one that is particularly important in legal Spanish. If we start from the phrase a mi entender ("in my opinion"), where entender is used as a noun and means "opinion," it is easy to see that the verb entender can also mean "to opine, to believe, to think" and is a synonym of opinar and creer. Here is a simple example: yo entiendo que debe

Hidden Meanings in Legal Spanish

Acuerdo/acordar In an earlier post, we discussed the surprising meanings that certain ordinary words can have in legal English. Today we will begin studying words in legal Spanish whose second and third meanings might be unfamiliar even to a person with a Ph.D. in Spanish literature. The word for today is "acuerdo." acuerdo. Most students of Spanish know that acuerdo means "agreement," but it has two other meanings in legal Spanish. The first is "resolution," as in a "shareholders' resolution." So the phrase "los acuerdos de la junta general de accionistas de la sociedad" is synonymous with "las resoluciones de la asamblea general de accionistas de la sociedad" (with the difference being th

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