Defining definitions

 

Here’s a new article by a law librarian about statutory definitions:

Price, Jeanne Frazier. “Wagging, not barking: statutory definitions,” 60 Cleveland State Law Review 999-1055 (2013).

And here’s its abstract:

 

 

Legislative text is distinguished by the frequency with which it specifies the meaning of the words it employs. More than 25,000 terms are defined in the United States Code alone. In few other contexts is there a perceived need to so carefully and repeatedly clarify meaning. This Article examines the roles played by definitions in a reader’s understanding and application of a legislative text; it demonstrates that the effects of defining are not as straightforward as we might assume. The discussion is framed by the distinction between legislation as a communication vehicle and as an instrument of governance. In some cases, definition serves predominantly a communicative purpose; it clarifies the speaker’s intent. But at other times the legislative definition empowers; it serves a performative function, investing groups of individuals or instances with rights or obligations. The Article suggests that a better understanding of the effect of definition on a reader’s interaction with a text, coupled with an appreciation of the different roles served by definition, will enable legislators to draft more useful definitions and enable interpreters to better apply those definitions.

 

Brief citation 101

My post from yesterday about the incomplete and confusing (to me anyway) citations in numbered paragraph 3 of the Attorney General’s letter “Re: Physician Hospitals of America v. Sebelius, No. 11-40631 is, by far, our most-read posting on this blog.  Now that the mystery about the cites has been solved (they are in fact citations to Solicitor General briefs and we now have copies of all four of them, copies supplied to us by the Department of Justice), I’ve taken down the post to prevent my confusion from spreading to others.   But for our readers who might be new to legal research and legal citation, let me offer a few definitions from one of my most favorite reference books, Fox, Elyse H. The Legal Research Dictionary: From Advance Sheets to Pocket Parts. 2nd ed. [Chapel Hill, N.C.]: Legal Information Services, 2006.

First, brief. 

A document submitted to the court by a party to the litigation to persuade the court to accept a legal proposition advanced by that party.  Briefs include a statement of jurisdiction, a summary of the case (2), history of the proceedings, statement of facts, a summary of the legal issues presented, summary of argument, argument, the relief requested, conclusion, and table of authorities. . . . An amicus brief is a brief submitted to the court by a non-party to the litigation. . . .

Next, citation and citation manual

A reference that unambiguously identifies the location of a specific opinion, statute, rule, law review article, or other type of legal publication. . . . Appropriate citation consists of the name or title of the source . . . Citation guidebooks dictate proper form.  Citations use standard formats to for identifying authority to lead the legal researcher to the source material quickly and accurately.  Citation format generally applies to all types of legal writing.  Also called cite.  See also citation manual, parallel citation, medium-neutral citation.

citation manual

A manual or guidebook that prescribes the standard form of citation to be used in citing authorities in legal writing.  Various citation manuals exist: probably the most widely used manual is A Uniform System of Citation (the Blue Book). . . .

So now, turning to the so-called bluebook, let us take a look at how it says briefs should be cited:

Rule 10.8.3 (p. 106):

In general, all court filings follow the same general form.  The full name of the document, as it appears on the filing, must come first, . . . followed by a pinpoint citation, if any.  . . .

. . .

Always include the docket number, whether parenthetically (when there is a reported citation) or as the citation (when there is no reported citation):

> Brief of Petitioner-Appellant at 48, United States v. Al-Marri, No. 03-3674 (7th Cir. Nov. 12, 2003).

. . .

My White Horse Case Book Now in Its 3rd Edition! Happy Day!!

How many times have we seen students spinning their wheels online seeking that illusive “white horse case?”

Don’t know what a white horse case is (I’m showing my age here)?  Then look it up in Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage, one of my most favorite reference books.  I love this book and I read it for fun and find many definitions — besides “white horse case” (and this is the only book I’ve found which offers a good definition of the phrase) —  to share with my students, so I was delighted to see that this book is now out in its third edition; from the Oxford University Press Law Newsletter:

Bryan A. Garner reaffirms his position as the foremost expert of legal usage and style with the Third Edition of his Dictionary of Legal Usage. This month, be among the first to own this revamped and expanded new edition with more than 800 new entries.
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage
Third Edition
Bryan A. Garner

This new edition discusses and analyzes modern legal vocabulary and style more thoroughly than any other contemporary reference work.

I can’t wait to start pouring over those 800 new entries.  Talk about poolside summer reading!

New Book – Researching Language and the Law: Textual Features and Translation Issues

Davide Simone Giannoni and Celina Frade’s new book “Researching Language and the Law: contains the following chapters that will be of interest to people studying legal translation and interpretation.

Researching Language and the Law: Textual Features and Translation Issues

Davide Simone Giannoni and Celina Frade

Bern: Perter Lang, 2010

Selected Book Chapters:

English Legal Discourse and the French Continuum

Susan Kermas

“What I argue in this chapter is that the unique language contact situation within the EU has triggered another phase of French influence. My examination of English and French legal documents in the Eur-Lex archive … will demonstate not only that many words have been influenced by French, but, more importantly, that efforts to harmonise legal language within the EU may also be creating a further rift between British and American legal discourse and subsequently, ordinary language.”

Axiological Analysis of Entries in a Spanish Law Dictionary and their English Equivalents

Angel M.  Felices Lago

 

Legal Translation and Interpreting in the UK Today

Francisco Vigier

The UK has two main translator and interpeter organizations, the Institute of Translation and Interpreting  and the Charted Institute of Linguists, which are recognised by the government and committed to promote quality in translation and interpreting services. Nonetheless, a translator or interpreter willing to practise in Britain is not bound to belong to any of them. . .”

 

Annotated Bibliography of Spanish-English Legal Translation and Interpretation

Professor Gladys Matthews of the College of Charleston reviews various Spanish langauge legal dictionaries and bilingual legal dictionaries in the following article available online:

An Annotated Bibliography of Spanish-English Legal Translation and Interpretation

Gladys Matthews

Proteus Newsletter of the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators

Vol. 19,  No.1 (Spring 2010)

Pages 9-12.

Online version of article is only available to members of NAJIT.

http://www.najit.org/publications/proteus.php

Legal Interpreting and Translating: A Research Guide

Legal Interpreting and Translating: A Research Guide

Don Ford

FCIL Librarian, University of Iowa

Although the guide is specific to the Iowa Library System, the guide offers a nice bibliography of legal translation titles and a list of glossaries and dictionaries in 20 languages from Europe, Asia ,and Africa. Particularly useful are the links to online legal glosssaries from state courts covering the following languages: Arabic, Armenian, Cantonese, Chinese, German, Hindi, Hmong, Korean, Laotian, Punjabi,Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Urdu and Vietnamese.

http://www.law.uiowa.edu/documents/pathfinders/court_interpreter.pdf

Japanese Law Translation

Hap tip to Ben Jones for pointing out that these are unofficial translations.

Japan’s Ministry of Justice has a new Website that offers unofficial English translations of thousands of Japanese statutes and regulations. The site provides bilingual versions of the laws and regulations. It also includes lexicographic notes explaining the translation of difficult terms. Here is an example of Article 1 of the Copyright Act of 1970:

目的)

(Purpose)

第一条この法律は、著作物並びに実演、レコード、放送及び有線放送に関し著作者の権利及びこれに隣接する権利を定め、これらの文化的所産の公正な利用に留意しつつ、著作者等の権利の保護を図り、もつて文化の発展に寄与することを目的とする。

Article 1 The purpose of this Act is to provide for, and to secure protection of, the rights of authors, etc. and the rights neighboring thereto with respect [copyrightable] works as well as performances, phonograms, broadcasts and wire-broadcasts, while giving due regard to the fair exploitation of these cultural products, and by doing so, to contribute to the development of culture

The site’s bilingual dictionary is a wonderful resource that not only provides translations, but also links to statutes and regulations that use a specific term or phrase.

Japanese Law Translation

http://www.japaneselawtranslation.go.jp/

The Quality of Legal Dictionaries: An Assessment

 

Earlier Sergio wrote about an “article on evaluating English-Spanish legal dictionaries.”  Now, from the Legal Scholarship Network, comes notice of this new article:

The Quality of Legal Dictionaries: An Assessment

R. DE GROOT, University of Maastricht

CONRAD VAN LAER, University of Maastricht

In this article, the quality of the different bilingual legal dictionaries between the languages of the Member States of the European Union will be assessed. In order to do so, some general remarks will be made first about problems with translating legal terminology. Based on those remarks, criteria for reliable bilingual dictionaries will be formulated in the next section. Finally, these criteria will be applied on the available bilingual dictionaries containing the legal language used by one or more EU Member States. To illustrate this, we have attached an updated bibliography encompassing about 200 recently published bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries in the European Union.

The bibliography in the Annex will be the evidence for our final conclusion that most legal dictionaries must be classified as a word list, which implies here that they are of dubious quality. To date, few legal dictionaries have attempted to meet our criteria. Dictionaries that are based on comparative legal research, on the other hand, offer advantages that render them useful to professional translators.

 

Source: LSN Comparative Law Vol. 8 No. 127,  11/11/2008