The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law In English

by Susan Gualtier

In my role as FCIL librarian at the Louisiana State University Law Center, one of the most interesting aspects of my job has been the work that I’ve done with the Center of Civil Law Studies based at LSU:

The Center of Civil Law Studies (CCLS) was established in 1965 to promote and encourage the scientific study of the civil law system, its history, structure, principles, and actualities. Its purpose or mission is to facilitate a better understanding and further development of the private law of the State of Louisiana and other civil law jurisdictions, particularly those of continental Europe and Latin America, through theoretical and practical activities, such as publications, translations, sponsorship of faculty and student exchanges, visiting scholars, seminars, and lectures. The Center of Civil Law Studies promotes legal education by sponsoring foreign students who wish to avail themselves of the opportunity of studying a mixed legal system and American students who wish to expose themselves to other legal systems. Such programs take advantage of Louisiana’s natural position as an education center for international and comparative legal studies.

On April 10 and 11, I had the privilege of attending a conference organized by the CCLS entitled The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law in English. The conference, which brought together civil law scholars, translators, and jurilinguists from around the world, shed light on some recent translation projects and forthcoming publications that are sure to be of interest to law librarians, and explored the many issues surrounding the translation of law generally and with specific reference to the translation of civil law into English.

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Professor Olivier Moréteau, Director of the CCLS and holder of the Russell B. Long Eminent Scholars Academic Chair, kicked off the conference with a discussion of the Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project and the history of the Louisiana Civil Code’s various French and English iterations. Once published in both French and English out of deference to Louisiana’s bilingual culture, the Civil Code ceased being published in French after the end of the Civil War. Professor Moréteau explained that Louisiana has had a long history of creating its own unique “language” to express civil law concepts in English, and that the terminology can be quite close to that used in previous French language codes, both in Louisiana and in Europe. Over the past several years, the CCLS has worked on translating the code back into French, focusing on maintaining the unique tone of the Louisiana civil code and on demonstrating to French-speaking legal scholars that a civil code can indeed be written in English and made compatible with the common law while at the same time maintaining the distinct terminology and tone of the civil law tradition.

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Building upon these introductory themes, the conference speakers discussed a range of topics relating to legal translation, legal and linguistic equivalence, historical works of translation in the area of the civil law, and specific translation projects on which they have been working. The Hon. Nicholas Kasirer, of the Cour d’appel du Québec, delivered the annual Tucker Lecture, a keynote address entitled That Montreal Sound: The Influence of French Legal Ideas and the French Language on the Civil Law Expressed in English, during which he shared fascinating examples of the essential “Frenchness” of the English language Québec Civil Code. Agustin Parise, of Maastricht University, spoke on the first Spanish translation of the Louisiana Civil Code, and its influence on the civil codes of Latin America. Professors Alain Levasseur and John Randall Trahan of LSU, and Professor David Gruning of Loyola University in New Orleans, discussed their work on a new translation of the French Civil Code into English for Legifrance, while Michel Séjean of the University of Southern Brittany discussed his English translation of the French Code de commerce, and Serban Vacarelu, also of Maastricht University, mentioned his work in coordinating a forthcoming English translation of the Romanian Civil Code. In nearly all of the talks, emphasis was placed on preserving the tone and terminology of the civil law without falling back on similar-sounding common law terminology, and on the difficulties in reconciling the differences in the drafting traditions of the common law system, whose scholarship exists primarily in English, and of the civil law systems of Europe and Latin America.

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Perhaps the most fascinating portion of the conference, for me, was Professor Levasseur’s presentation of his experience in translating Gérard Cornu’s Vocabulaire juridique into English, with a specific focus on defining and translating those provisions most relevant to the Louisiana Civil Code. Having assisted Professor Levasseur with this project in my capacity as a librarian, I was excited to hear him discuss the final product and the approach that he had taken to the translation. Avoiding a word for word translation that might mislead readers accustomed to working exclusively in English or with common law concepts, Professor Levasseur decided to provide a descriptive explanation of the French term in English before providing suggested English terms (as well as terms to avoid.) In this way, the translation is constructed in a way that forces the reader to understand fully the nuance and meaning of the civil law term before choosing a word to express the concept English. The Vocabulaire juridique translation is now complete and will be available from LexisNexis in July 2014.

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Although a few of the lectures in this conference were admittedly a bit beyond my full understanding (both because they delved into the technical aspects of jurilinguistics, and because about half of them were delivered en Français), it was incredible to witness the group’s excitement and dedication to an area of study that is probably largely unfamiliar to most of us who have trained and are working in the United States legal profession. All of the presentations were recorded, and videos will be available on the CCLS website sometime during the next few weeks. In the meantime, those interested in the civil law tradition, and particularly in how it has developed in the Americas, should keep an eye on the CCLS website for further news about their very interesting work.  The Louisiana Civil Code translation is available on the LSU Law Center’s website, and individual segments are published in the Journal of Civil Law Studies on LSU’s Digital Commons as the translations are completed.  The Preliminary Title, as well as sections on the Law of Obligations and Suretyship and Mandate, are complete and available from both sources.

ASIL-ILA 2014 Wrap-Up

by Kristina Alayan

10168143_10101375365777866_2769768667846167479_nFor the first time since both the American Society of International Law (ASIL) and the International Law Association (ILA) were founded, the two organizations came together for an ambitious joint conference. The successful event took place April 7 – 12, 2014 at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC. Scholars, practitioners, judges, and students from around the world came to enjoy the outstanding programs and networking opportunities. Moreover, the timing of the conference coincided with the blooming of the famous DC cherry blossoms, which were out in full force. Conference participants who stayed through Saturday (and who were willing to brave the crowds) also enjoyed the Cherry Blossom Parade on Saturday, April 12 – the final weekend of the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival.

Speakers ranged from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Radhika Coomaraswamy, former UN Special Representative of the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict on Violence against Women. Judges from the International Court of Justice were in attendance both as honorees and as panelists along with numerous distinguished and accomplished scholars and practitioners. For those who were unable to attend the conference or a particular panel, the program is available for download on the ASIL website. In addition, ASIL Cables continued to provide commentary on the programs and events that took place over the course of the conference. Volunteers ably reported on the 55 panels and ensured comprehensive coverage of the events in an effort to disseminate the content to a wider audience.

10151851_10101375380193976_2748864400896446422_nThe programming at the conference focused on various aspects of the effectiveness of international law. Though the theme was broad, the programs often focused on more discrete issues, ranging from the anticipated ramifications of the recent Kiobel decision to whether forced feeding in response to hunger strikes is a violation of the Prohibition of Torture and Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment. Lively discussions took place among panelists, and participation from the engaged attendees served to further these conversations during the Q&A sessions and often long after the programs had concluded.

The International Legal Research Interest Group (ILRIG) has continued to build upon the leadership of its founders with a current roster of dedicated and inspired law librarians from across the country. It’s hard to believe that the group was only recently founded in 2010. In a short amount of time, the group’s biannual newsletter, the International Legal Research Informer, has already been formally recognized by ASIL as a newsletter to follow, and the International Research Kiosk staffed by ILRIG volunteers continues to be a popular resource for attendees. For the second year, ILRIG has sponsored a successful and well attended program, which was described in an earlier DipLawMatic Dialogues post by Joan Policastri. One of the most recent developments spearheaded by the ILRIG leadership is an initiative to recognize important contributions in the area of providing and enhancing legal information resources in international law. This initiative is still in the developmental stages, but ILRIG members are looking forward to hearing more about the award. The current name under consideration is the Jus Gentium Research Award, though ILRIG members are welcome to offer additional suggestions. The hope is to be able to honor a recipient in time for the meeting next year. The ASIL conference is a unique opportunity to catch up with colleagues and welcome new attendees while enjoying stellar programming that addresses current (and often controversial) issues in international law. Time permitting, attendees can also enjoy some of the amazing sights found only in Washington, DC. We hope to see you at ASIL next year!

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Consolidated Treaty Series Being Digitized by Oxford University Press

by Marylin Raisch

Here at ASIL, the most fun is chatting with editors and vendors about worthwhile projects, and not merely prices and products, on a more, shall we say, customer service basis. On Tuesday I spoke with John Louth, Editor in Chief of Academic Law at Oxford University Press, and he expects that by September 2014 the Clive Parry Consolidated Treaty Series, an essential source in international law as well as legal and world history, will be available electronically through OUP. While it will not yet be searchable through all of the the scanned texts, metadata will exist in the first stage of the process which will make it possible for researchers to access the texts.

At last! Electronic access to this collection of treaties from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 through 1919 will make many smaller collections more complete and scholarly in content. For more information, contact OUP directly.

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words…

by Joan Policastri

“A picture is worth a thousand words.”

This could be a summary of the program offered Wednesday afternoon at ASIL-ILA, entitled Connecting the Dots: Visualizing International Law.  Moderated by our own Marylin Raisch, this program demonstrated three ways of taking “Big Data” raw numbers and using visual representations to simplify their presentation and make them more accessible, with the aim of improving teaching, communication, and problem-solving in the transnational legal context.

The three items demonstrated were the Rule of Law Index website from the World Justice Project, which assigns numerical scores to each country purporting to measure how the rule of law is experienced in everyday life around the globe; the Global Health and Human Rights website from the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at the Georgetown University Law Center; and mind mapping as used in teaching complex international law concepts.

The Rule of Law Index presents numerical data, but also allows the user to view a spider graph for each country that combines all of the factors considered in the scoring into a snapshot from which the user can extract specific details. In this way, the site allows the user to look beyond the numerical scores assigned to each country and to view the actual questions and responses that led to the scores. The Global Health and Human Rights website includes a free online database of health and human rights law. The site allows the user to search for case law using an interactive map, as well as to use drop down menus to search for cases by health topic, human rights, region, country, and international or regional body. It also contains direct links to national constitutions, as well as to regional and international instruments.

The presentation on mind mapping was of particular interest to me, since I had previously experienced a course in International Commercial Arbitration that had been taught with the use of mind mapping software. Professor Jeffrey B. Ritter, of the Georgetown University Law Center, explained why this method is so effective. While most law school courses are taught using casebooks and lectures, 70% of us learn best visually. For this reason, a mind map will help us to learn more quickly and easily – up to 60 times more quickly than will texts alone. Professor Ritter shared that in Kaplan’s materials, half of the pages contain maps. When faced with a multiple choice question, most students will pull up a mental image of the relevant map. Maps allow for self-paced learning, improve collaboration, and allow for faster initial analysis. The use of maps can eliminate the need for casebooks and course packs and allow students to learn more effectively.

To summarize, this session not only showed specific uses of visual data representation, but demonstrated that pictures and other visual aids, being a common language across countries and cultures, can allow us to work, teach, and learn more effectively by helping us to cross borders and to overcome language and other communication barriers.

 

News From ASIL’s Director of Education and Research

by Joan Policastri

On Tuesday afternoon, ASIL’s Director of Education and Research, Wes Rist, dropped by the Research Kiosk and chatted with Wanita Scroggs, James Hart, and me. Wes has been in his position at ASIL for less than two years, but he has big plans to extend the educational offerings, and he was very happy to see that there was a research kiosk.

Wes is very interested in getting feedback from librarians about the programs and opportunities ASIL offers, such as the live streaming of sessions from the annual meeting, and is particularly interested in expanding ASIL’s member benefits in the area of career services. He said that the new issue of ASIL’s “Careers in International Law” focuses on the practical aspects of getting a job in international law, and that ASIL is planning to offer its members and Academic Partners a series of short webinars on professional development skills during the summer.

Another new resource, specifically for Academic Partners, is an upcoming webinar designed to give career services offices the tools needed to effectively advise students interested in international law careers. If possible, Wes would also like to add a track at next year’s annual meeting that focuses on professional development in the field of international law. Another new benefit that members and Academic Partners will enjoy is a job board to be offered through the ASIL website, which is scheduled for later this summer. Non-members will be able to pay for access to this resource.

Finally, Wes was very excited to let us know that ASIL will be offering online CLEs with special rates for ASIL members. Watch for more details on this exciting new offering.

All Eyes On ASIL-ILA!

This week brings with it a very special event in the international legal community:  the first ever joint ASIL Annual meeting and ILA Biennial Conference.  The theme of the conference is “The Effectiveness of International Law“:

International law today touches on nearly every aspect of our lives, from the price of practically everything we purchase, to the health of the environment that surrounds us, to our ability to communicate seamlessly worldwide. These encounters serve as daily reminders that, as Louis Henkin famously put it, “almost all nations observe almost all principles of international law and almost all of their obligations almost all of the time.”

Yet at the same time, there are regular reminders that not all nations, groups, or individuals observe all principles of international law or all of their obligations all of the time. International law violations such as human rights abuses, trade law breaches, and law of armed conflict violations remain all too common.

When, how, and why is international law most effective? Are there greater challenges to effectiveness in some areas of international law practice than in others? If so, what are they, and how can they be addressed? What role do domestic and international courts play in enforcing international law and thus enhancing its effectiveness? Does the increasingly intertwined transnational economy offer tools that may be used to enforce international law against states and individuals, or does it instead make international law more vulnerable by making evasion of national authority simpler? Do the challenges facing international law vary in different parts of the world, and, if so, how might those challenges be met? What role do non-state actors—non-governmental organizations and corporations chief among them—play in making international law more or less effective? And what role should they play?

The 2014 joint ASIL Annual Meeting and ILA Biennial Conference will address these questions.

The conference began on Monday, and our correspondents are on the ground and ready to share their experiences!  Keep an eye on the blog for updates, and follow us here on WordPress or via email, Twitter, or Bloglovin’ so that you never miss a post!

Finally, if you’re at ASIL-ILA this week and are feeling a bit overwhelmed, check out this great Survival Guide for Library Conferences from the RIPS Law Librarian Blog!

See you on the other side!