AALL 2015 Recap: Chinese Legal Information: Availability, Accessibility and Quality Control

By Alex Zhang and Anne Mostad-Jensen

NewAALLClogoSmallHave you ever been tasked with finding an English translation of a recently enacted ordinance in Hong Kong when all of your colleagues in the Hong Kong office on the other side of the world are asleep in their beds? Have you been asked to help a member of the law journal reverse engineer and decipher an esoteric citation to a Chinese regulation that has been translated into English? Have you ever been asked by your favorite law professor to figure out whether the State Council of the People’s Republic of China has translated its open government information regulation into English?

The Asian American Law Librarians Caucus (AALLC) program on Chinese legal information, held on Monday, July 20 from 4:30pm to 5:30pm, was designed to help you to handle these problems and others like them that you may have already encountered or will likely encounter in the future. Alex Zhang, from the University of Michigan Law Library, and Anne Mostad-Jensen, from the University of North Dakota Law Library, explored some of the most practical yet important issues related to English translations of Chinese primary legal materials, such as availability, accessibility and quality control.

Before using any English translation of primary legal materials of any jurisdiction, it is important to understand and fully appreciate the characteristics of the legal system and infrastructure. The Chinese legal system is a mixed legal system composed of the socialist civil law system of Mainland China, the common law system of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), and the civil law system of Macao Special Administrative Region (Macao SAR). Each section has its own official language that directly impacts the authority and availability of English translations of primary legal materials. For example, in Mainland China, the official language is Mandarin Chinese nationwide. As a result, English translations, regardless of its issuing organ, are only for informational purposes. On the other hand, English and Chinese are both official languages of HKSAR and therefore, English and Chinese versions of primary legal materials issued by the official governmental entity are considered equally authoritative. Macao SAR is unique in the sense that Chinese and Portuguese are both considered as official languages. Consequently, English translations are of informational purposes only.

The different legal systems and framework also impact the availability and accessibility of English translations of primary legal materials in all three jurisdictions. With English as one of the official languages, English versions of primary legal materials of Hong Kong SAR are the most accessible among the three jurisdictions. Legislation in both English and Chinese is available through HKSAR Department of Justice Bilingual Laws Information System. The website also provides glossaries of legal terms prepared by the Law Drafting Division of the Department of Justice. Similarly, Hong Kong Judiciary’s Legal Reference System provides the full text of court decisions in English.[1]

The PRC government is making progress toward making its laws available in English. Both the National People’s Congress and the State Council have been publishing English translations of selective laws and regulations since the late 1970s. Furthermore, both branches have made laws and regulations in English available online. For example, the National People’s Congress launched the online database Laws and Regulations in English in 2006. Its Chinese Law database also provides English translations of certain laws and regulations when available. Commercial vendors, such as Chinalawinfo, Westlaw China and Lexis China all provide extensive English translations of primary legal materials from Mainland China.

Users may have the least luck when it comes to finding English translations of Macao laws and regulations. Both Chinese and Portuguese versions of the laws and regulations of Macao are readily available at the Macao SAR Legislative Assembly website, but English versions are not included on the website. The Government Printing Bureau of Macao does make English translations of certain major codes available at its official website, including both the Commercial Code and the Industrial Property Code.

On the other hand, making translations available does not necessarily indicate the quality of the translations. Translation is hard. Legal translation is even harder. Deborah Cao claims “the sources of legal translation difficulty include the systematic differences in law, linguistic differences and cultural differences.”[2] Olga Burukina argues that legal translators are constantly challenged with “time and quality issues as well as a number of contradictions” related to time, systems, terminology, meaning, etc.[3]

Relying on a misleading translation is worse than not relying on a translation at all. Therefore, both presenters spent time discussing issues and concerns with the quality of the currently available English translations of all three jurisdictions. The presenters provided concrete examples of some of the major concerns, such as inconsistency, lack of officially issued bilingual legal terminologies for Mainland China and Macao SAR, and omissions and additions of words from the version in the source language. At the end of the presentation, presenters also shared tips and strategies for using English translations of Chinese primary legal materials with the audience. If you would like to receive a copy of the presentation materials by email, please feel free to contact Alex Zhang (zxm@umich.edu) or Anne Mostad-Jensen (anne.mostadjensen@law.und.edu).

[1] HKSAR judicial decisions are issued either in Chinese or in English, with a majority of cases still issued in English. Judicial decisions of jurisprudential value originally issued in Chinese are translated and made available in English as well. See http://legalref.judiciary.gov.hk/lrs/common/ju/tjpv.jsp.

[2] Deborah Cao, Translating Law 23 (Multilingual Matters, 2007).

[3] Olga Burukina, The Legal Translator’s Competence, 5 Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 809, 810–812 (2013).

AALL 2015 Recap: “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps”

By Alexis Fetzer

scalesThe late Sunday afternoon session entitled “International Attorneys and LL.M. Students: Filling Research Gaps” targeted librarians working with international students in an instructional setting. Each speaker presented on his or her experience working with foreign LL.M. students.

The first of the three speakers was Jinwei Zhang, Reference and Instructional Technologies Librarian at the University of Tennessee School of Law. Ms. Zhang had a unique experience in that she had been a foreign LL.M. student herself. She began by discussing some of the unique challenges instructors face in teaching these students, such as language barriers, cultural differences, and introducing a new legal system. One cultural difference that Zhang emphasized was a reluctance to ask questions in class. Many of these students are coming from learning environments in which they are not encouraged to interrupt a lecturer with comments or questions. It is important to be patient and encouraging of these students in order to get them to open up in class. One suggestion offered was instituting more one on one meetings with students in order to get them comfortable talking to instructors and to answer any questions that they are too uncomfortable to pose before an entire class.

Nina Scholtz, Head of Reference Services & Instruction Coordinator at Cornell University Law School, was the second of three speakers. Ms. Scholtz spoke on her experience as an academic law librarian instructing LL.M. students in legal research in their Principles of American Legal Writing course. In this course she instructs students in four class sessions and then works with students individually on their research for writing projects.

One challenge she highlighted was the difficulty in overcoming language barriers for legal citation abbreviations. It is important for instructors to keep in mind that what appears to make sense in the English speaker’s mind as an abbreviation for a court or publication may not always translate clearly to the foreign student. An instructor should look for ways to make this easier for students to understand and should be able to point to resources that can assist students in abbreviating or deciphering abbreviations of citations.

Scholtz shared one of the exercises she performed with her students, entitled “Thinking like a Common Law Lawyer.” This exercise focuses on the factual analysis that needs to take place before students can begin tackling legal research. Students are tasked with finding the basis of the case, generating search terms, and looking to other synonyms and antonyms of those terms. After the class performs this exercise together as a whole, students are broken up into smaller groups and given the same type of assignment with a different fact pattern.

The final speaker was Furman Scott DeMaris, Research Services Librarian at Reed Smith LLP, who spoke of his experience as a firm librarian when Reed Smith took on several Chinese LL.M. students as apart of work-study program with Temple University School of Law. One thing the firm did was to offer research refreshers and training for these students. Mr. Demaris found that it was important to let these students know that the librarians were there to assist them, because otherwise they might not have identified the librarians as a resource. Research guides were also offered to students on topics such as how to avoid research pitfalls and how to perform cost effective research. One challenge in hosting these LL.M. students was that, because they were guests rather than employees, they could not be given access to all of the firm’s resources. At the end of their time with Reed Smith, the students were asked to give a presentation on Chinese Law. This was a great way take advantage of the special knowledge of these foreign educated attorneys and to educate the firm’s attorneys on a foreign legal system.

After the final speaker, attendees were asked to discuss amongst members seated at their table the challenges in training foreign attorneys in an LL.M. instructional program or similar setting. The microphone was then opened for attendees to share and for the speakers to answer any questions.

Follow Up: Changes to EU Case Publishing Not Included in 20th Edition of Bluebook

by Alison Shea

Last summer I wrote a short pbluebook 20ost for this blog detailing the changes to official reporting of cases from the Court of Justice of the European Union, and asked the question of how librarians would deal with this while waiting for the 20th edition of the Bluebook (BB) to be published.

Now that we have received our shiny new copies of the 20th edition, it would appear that there have been no changes to rule 21.5.2(a) that would indicate to the reader that the Reports of cases before the Court of Justice and the General Court, aka the ECR, has ceased publication in print as of January 1, 2012. Not only is the wording of this rule almost verbatim to what appeared in the 19th edition, but “Reports of cases before the Court of Justice” in T3.3 lists the coverage as 1973-date [n.b. not to nitpick even further, but this is technically incorrect, as cases decided before the English-language countries joined the EU in 1973 were translated into English and printed in special retrospective editions of the English-language ECR]; with the recent changes, the most correct coverage date range should instead read 1973-2011. Although the Court’s website indicates that the “Reports of Cases” are now published exclusively online, for BB purposes these Reports should not be cited in a similar fashion, as they obviously lack both a volume number (I for Court of Justice cases, II for General Court cases) and consecutive pagination.

The lack of direct guidance on this format change is disappointing because although rule 21.5.2(a) includes a secondary preference for citing to an electronic source “if an official reporter is not available in print”, for journal students and other users who are unaware that the ECR is simply no longer published, I can imagine that much time will be wasted searching for an ECR cite first instead of realizing that anything decided 2012-date will not have an ECR cite.

Going further, I was also disappointed to see that in this secondary preference paragraph, the BB editors have added new guidance for finding ECJ cases online outside of Curia: “for cases before June, 1997: http://old.eur-lex.europa.eu”.  This is unhelpful on a number of counts, most notably because it implies that cases decided before June 1997 cannot be located and retrieved on Curia (incorrect) and that to find cases before June 1997 one would have to use the “old” version of Eur-lex (also incorrect), which is no longer being updated and currently exists for archival purposes only. One theory as to why the BB editors would direct users to an archival site is that on the old Eur-lex one was able to go to the “Access by year” feature at the bottom of the Case-law page and select any year from 1954-onwards. In the “new” Eur-lex, under “Direct access to case law”, one can only select back until 1973. This again is not a correct assumption of coverage, as case law going back to the beginning can be retrieved via full text search, document number or CELEX number in the “new” Eur-lex.

So what is to be done? Even without any guidance in the BB, the sun will still rise in the East and law students will still come to ask for help at the reference desk. My simple solution will be to instruct law review editors and other users to cite the ECR for judgments issued from 1954-2011, and to use the electronic version via Curia for everything 2012-date. Also, let me make a small plug here for the Fordham International Law Journal’s EU Citation Manual which, although they have only made the 2010-11 version publicly available and thus this version does not address the ECR issue, goes into far greater detail on standardizing citations for EU documentation than the BB does and can be quite useful to students writing an EU-source heavy note. The further question of whether to adopt the European Case Law Identifier (ECLI) is still unresolved, but so long as the BB is fine with citations to the URL of Curia, the issue of whether to include the ECLI can wait for another day!

Finding Foreign Case Law By Citation: A Practical Guide

By Lyonette Louis-Jacques

The following guide was originally posted to the INT-LAW listserv on July 10, 2014, in response to one of the list’s most frequently asked questions.  What happens when you or a patron have a case law citation, but don’t know how to find the text of the case? Here are a few tips to get you started.

universitylogo1-300x288First, figure out what the abbreviation for the case report stands for.  To do so, use the Cardiff Index to Legal Abbreviations, a free, online database that allows you to search for the meaning of abbreviations for English language legal publications, from the British Isles, the Commonwealth and the United States, including those covering international and comparative law, as well as a wide selection of major foreign language law publications.

Let’s say you want that famous cannibal case, R v Dudley and Stephens (1884) 14 QBD 273 –  but you don’t know what “QBD” stands for.  Plug it into the Cardiff Index and you will discover as follows:

Q.B.D. L.R.Q.B.D. ; L.R.Q.B.Div. ; Law Rep.Q.B.D. Law Reports, Queen’s Bench Division England & Wales

Now that you know that QBD stands for the “Law Reports, Queen’s Bench Division,” you can search local, nearby library catalogs for holdings, or use a free OPAC or union catalog to find out which libraries near you own it.  I like using Open WorldCat, AMICUS, KVK (Karlsruhe Virtual Catalog), Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and so on.  It depends on what I am trying to locate and whom I know at the library that holds it.

Proceeding with your search for R v Dudley and Stephens, you search a catalog to see which libraries have the 1884 volumes of the Law Reports, Queen’s Bench Division.  Then you have three options:

  1. Contact someone you know at a library that has the volumes, and ask for copies.
  2. Place an interlibrary loan request directly with a particular library.  There might be a document delivery service.
  3. Place an ILL request via OCLC or another established lending and borrowing arrangement.

dudleyIf a case is famous, it may be “Wikipedia’ed,” in which case there is a possibility that the article will contain links to the full text:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R_v._Dudley_and_Stephens

If no links are given, you may still be able to locate the full text as reported in a print resource by using Google Books, HathiTrust, Gallica, or one of several other digital libraries.  These virtual libraries digitize older case reports/reporters, so the text of cases are likely to be available here only if the cases are old enough.  Googling the case generally helps to establish a date if you don’t already have one.  There are also the legal information institutes that form part of the Free Access to Law Movement, but the text there might not be exactly as it is in in the QBD or in other print sources.

And you always have a fourth option:

  1. Ask your INT-LAW colleagues for help!

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DipLawMatic Dialogues thanks Lyonette Louis-Jacques for granting us permission to edit and post this guide.

Legal Translation and Interpretation Tools Recap

By Alex Zhang

One of the positive impacts of globalization is to greatly reduce the cost of cross-border communications and transactions.  The traditional physical boundary is blurred due to modern communication technologies.  Google Books allow readers to have instant access to works published by authors from hundreds of thousands of miles away.  Instant messaging and email allow acquisition librarians to negotiate licenses with vendors from the other side of the world all the time.  E-commerce and the Internet allow librarians to select and purchase materials without having to physically cross the borders.  However, none of the above tasks can be truly accomplished without breaking a barrier that still exists– the language barrier.

With over 190 countries and over 3000 languages being used in the world, reliable translation or interpretation tools become indispensable for all information professionals.  The complexity of legal systems and legal terminology pose an extra layer of difficulty of legal translation and thus stimulate higher demand for useful translation and interpretation tools.  Although the importance and value of accurate legal translation and interpretation attracts more scholarly attention (e.g. here and here) over the years in the law librarianship field, there have been very few discussions on the tools of legal translation and interpretation.

The excellent presentation made by librarians Saskia Mehlhorn, Jim Hart and Don Ford at the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Association of Law Libraries helped bridge the gap.  The presentation was informative, critical and thought provoking.  Presenters demonstrated use of a variety of online tools to facilitate three different kinds of translation projects: translating a catalog entry, cite-checking a source in foreign language, and translating legal documents, followed by a thoughtful discussion of pros and cons of many top-rated translation software, such as Google Translate, Babylon, Systran, etc. Mr. Ford also surveyed useful bilingual and multilingual legal dictionaries both in print and online.  The audience shared insightful comments and experience with using online translation discussion forum, such as the language forums maintained by wordreference.com.  The presenters also make PowerPoint slides and an in-depth research guide available on the University of Iowa Law Library website.

All three presenters cautioned on caveats and limitations when using translation tools, in print or online.  For example, Ms. Mehlhorn pointed out that despite being low-cost and prompt, machine translation software “could not read context” and “has no consideration of cultural differences.”  She also shared concerns of privacy and confidentiality protections when using online discussion forums to translate legal documents.

Although the presentation only lasted about an hour, it raised many questions in the area of legal translation and interpretation worthy of further discussion.  For example, how to better utilize translation tools (without complete reliance) to provide accurate legal translation?  Determining sources of difficulty in legal translation will behoove us to find the answer to the question.  Professor Deborah Cao, in her book Translating Law, identified the following sources of difficulty: different legal systems and laws, linguistic differences, and cultural differences.[1]  As a result, I propose the following methods that would help us to use legal translation tools more effectively to provide accurate legal translations: to achieve a better understanding and a solid knowledge of a country’s legal system in advance (e.g. here and here), to consult a legal expert of native tongue if possible (e.g. here and here), to identify an authoritative bilingual or multilingual legal dictionary or an official legal glossary from the country of the vernacular (e.g. here and here), and/or to hire a professional legal translator if appropriate (e.g. here and here).  These methods and tools can help legal information professionals to better resolve issues relating to the diversity and complexity of legal systems and terminology, to appraise the linguistic sources of machine translation software and to appreciate the cultural differences.

[1] Deborah Cao, Translating Law, 23-35 (Multilingual Matters Ltd., 2007)