Translating Court Documents from Spanish to English: Theory & Practice

In this four-part webinar (four sessions of one hour each), we’ll start with theory and discuss the various types of court orders found in the Spanish-speaking world. We’ll discuss the various types of sentencias and consider how concepts such as res judicata work. Then, we’ll turn our attention to practice. Although we’ll limit our discussion to civil (rather than criminal) court decisions, we won’t limit ourselves to one country, but will instead consider documents from various Spanish-speaking jurisdictions.

As we will see, Spanish-speaking judges often write their decisions in an estilo barroco, which can be difficult for nonlawyers to understand, even if Spanish is their native language. We’ll look at some of the opaque phrases often found in judgments, and discuss what they mean and how to translate them.

We’ll answer questions like these:

  • Should we translate medidas cautelares (or precautorias) as “injunctions”?

  • How is an apelación different from an appeal?

  • What’s the difference between a sentencia consentida and a consent judgment?

  • What’s the difference between an órgano sentenciador and a sentencing court?

  • What is casación? Should it be translated as cassation? And what about amparo?

  • What sorts of resources (beyond dictionaries) are there for legal translators?

The four sessions will be held on four Tuesdays in December, and a recording will be available if you can’t make it at the scheduled time. A link to all recordings will be emailed to all participants. The cost of the course is USD 265.

Here is the schedule:

Tuesday, December 1 at 2 pm EST (New York time)

Tuesday, December 8 at 2 pm EST (New York time)

Tuesday, December 15 at 2 pm EST (New York time)

Tuesday, December 22 at 2 pm EST (New York time)


  • Wonderful!

  • Outstanding!

  • Great. Very knowledgeable!

  • Wow! He really knows his field. Learned so much. Great presentation packed with great stuff.

  • Superb presentation. Interesting, informative, highly relevant and helpful.

  • Wow. This is my specialty and I still learned many new things. Just this presentation alone would have been enough to call conference fantastic.

  • Excellent! Need more excellent knowledgeable speakers like Mr. West!

  • Outstanding!—speaker is an excellent presenter with deep background in subject matter!

  • Gold standard for what ATA session should be. Extremely informative. Homework done and expert speaker.


Lawyer-Linguist Thomas West is known by translators around the world for his engaging and informative teaching style. Over the past 25 years, he has conducted seminars for translators in locations ranging from Buenos Aires and Cape Town in the south to Boston and Stockholm in the north and many other venues in Europe, Latin America, Canada and the United States. West began his career as a language teacher and then earned a law degree and practiced law with a major law firm in the United States. In 1995 he left the practice of law to found Intermark Language Services, where he has translated countless documents and edited many thousands of translations over the years. A careful observer of the kinds of things that can lead translators to misunderstand their source texts, he now draws on his quarter-century of experience to share what he has observed with translators around the world. In addition to being a popular speaker and translation instructor, West is also the author of three respected legal dictionaries, and is certified by the ATA for translation from French, Spanish, German and Dutch into English.

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