Translation of legal case names or similar
Thread poster: Catherine Mactaggart

Catherine Mactaggart  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:22
Spanish to English
Jun 19, 2018

Apologies as I expect this has already been asked, but I couldn't find anything that relevant.

I am never sure when to leave certain words or phrases in the source language for the sake of reference, or when to translate.

The example I'm considering now is from a legal letter regarding a divorce. The translated sentence would read something like:

'I am writing to you with regards to the case titled: "JOHN SMITH AND OTHER, DIVORCE DECREE BY JOINT PRESENTATION (File No. xxx)"

I'm inclined to translate it, as the parts would be reasonable understandable to the target language speakers even if in English but it's the fact that the sentence specifically reads: 'the case titled' , as, clearly, the title is the original and not the English translation, so if they need to search for and refer to it directly, they would need the source language title.

It's the same issue as with company names but I always leave them in the source language, being that they're legally registered under that name. But I'm not sure where the line is in this case.

In my translation studies we were taught to put both language, one in brackets, but I've rarely used that approach, finding it a bit cumbersome, and I also wouldn't be sure which to put first or how exactly to render the other.

Am I being too pedantic by wanting to leave the entire case name in the source language?


[Edited at 2018-06-19 14:15 GMT]


Nikki Scott-Despaigne  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:22
French to English
No-go and maybe Jun 19, 2018

Proper names should not be translated, of course. A case name in a law report should not be translated either. However, this is in correspondence and refers to a case and it is not in fact in any official legal referencing format anyway. I agree with what you say about not translating formal titles, or at least leaving a trace of the original so that it can be found. However, in spite of being announced as a title, nothing in the context you have provided strikes me about this as being a "title". Finally, unless I am mistaken, we would not say a "case titled" but a case "entitled".

Legal cases are referred to according to specific rules, e.g. Smith - vs - Jones (2018). That would be a title format.
What is referred to as a title in your post strikes me as a descriptive heading with a file reference at the end. My solution would be to leave the name and the file reference as is and to translate the descriptive elements. it looks like an in-house thing.

[Edited at 2018-06-19 17:30 GMT]


Phil Hand  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:22
Chinese to English
Target audience/keep both Jun 20, 2018

On issues like this, my feeling is always that we are working for a specific person, and the question is what do they want/need? When you get the job through an agency, it's very hard to know, of course, but we can always guess.

If your client is the English speaking person going through the divorce, I think you can safely assume that they just need to know what it says; in that case I would translate the case name.

If the client is a lawyer acting for the person, then they might appreciate a little more rigour, and I might be inclined to translate, then put the source language name in parentheses afterwards. One reason for doing this is to make sure that the English-speaking lawyer knows what all the parts of the case name are, just in case that's relevant.

Even if it's for an agency, you can ask the agency who the client is and what their preferences are, or if the agency has a standardized approach that they want you to follow.

@Nikki - "Proper names should not be translated, of course." While it's a good rule of thumb, I don't think it holds completely. To start with, if you work in a language that uses a different script, you have to transliterate at the very least. Secondly, proper names sometimes convey information. Catherine asked about company names: In China the company name is a fixed format, which is required by law to include the place where the company was registered, and the field it works in. It therefore carries information that might be a part of the message conveyed by the text, and that information needs to be brought out somehow - either by translating the name or by adding some descriptive note.

The only rule that really holds is: what does the client need/want?


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Translation of legal case names or similar

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