Wednesday, July 8, 2009

French to English Legalese, Part 2

law1 Legal documents are intimidating.  When you have a lawsuit and your lawyer writes procedures,  you want to scrutinize them with a fine-toothed comb to make sure you understand what is being said (or alleged) in the procedure. 

But if you aren't involved in any lawsuit, these legal procedures become less interesting.   Your tendency would probably be to set them aside or merely scan them with some indifference.  This indifference could be due to the legal terms and phrases that permeate through the documents of which the lay person knows very little about. 

When I was a paralegal, some people asked me why legal documents were too cumbersome to read.  Like it or not, legalese is something that's here to stay.  Legal language is so steeped in tradition that there has been little deviation from the way lawyers and judges communicate, especially in writing.  In declarations for example, it is common for lawyers (or paralegals) to start with the word "whereas", wherein certain conditions are outlined before presenting the facts of the case.  That hasn't yet been replaced by the more modern phrase "Given that" or "taking into account."  Somehow it's a lot easier and more customary to simply say "whereas."

Below are some legal phrases that you've probably come across before.



à bon droit lawfully, rightfully
à la condition que provided that
à peine de under penalty of
advenant in the event of something happening
avant dire droit injunction, provisional, interlocutory judgment
bien fondé merits of a case, claim
ci-après hereafter
ci-dessous hereinafter (or herewith below)
consigner par écrit to write down
débats judiciaires proceedings, hearings
detente fiscale tax cut
en tout état de cause whatever the situation, the legal situation

An interlocutory judgment is a judgment that is issued by a judge during hearings or proceedings. It is not a  final judgment. . It is provisional - temporary - until the judge hears all evidence submitted.

My lawyer-boss often took me to examinations for discovery (interrogatoire préalable) which were frequently held in lawyers' offices.  Lawyers from both camps are law2 present along with their clients.  There is a stenographer who takes down the entire examination and then submits the transcription 24-48 days later.  To me these were enlightening sessions; I enjoyed listening to the tit-for-tat among lawyers.  An examination for discovery (also called examination on discovery or oral examination) is a lawyer's right to question the adverse party prior to a trial.  It is one way for lawyers to collect information (or proof) which they can present to the judge during the actual trial in a court of law.

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