A Snapshot of Indonesian Law (and Indonesia) & the FCIL-SIS Throws a Party

By Julienne Grant

Rheny3Dr. Rheny Pulungan, recipient of the 2016 FCIL-SIS Schaffer Grant, gave a fascinating presentation on July 18 entitled “The Legal Landscape in Indonesia:  Limitations and Possibilities.”  This was actually Dr. Pulungan’s first time in the United States, and she admitted to being a little overwhelmed.  She was headed to NYC after her Chicago visit.

Dr Pulungan began her presentation with a quiz for audience members, “Fun Facts About Indonesia,” which tested us on our basic knowledge of the country, such as the number of islands (around 18,000);  population (about 250 million); and official religions (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Protestantism, Catholicism, and Confucianism). Needless to say, the attendees were a bit stumped and surprised at the answers. The speaker also showed a slide of Indonesia embedded on a map of the United States, and many of us were astonished to see what a large geographic area the country spans.

Indonesia’s legal system is complex, with civil law attributes resulting from the archipelago’s time under Dutch rule.  One region, Aceh, applies Shariah law. Since 1945, Dr. Pulungan explained, Indonesia has been creating its own laws. Starting in the 1970s, efforts began to create a national legal information center that would make Indonesian laws more accessible, and beginning in 2004, laws and court opinions have been regularly posted on Indonesian government websites.

The speaker next turned to Indonesia’s judicial system. At the trial level are 250 district courts, appellate level high courts number 30, and the Indonesian Supreme Court is a court of cassation. There are also specialized courts, including religious courts and military courts, as well as a constitutional court.  The Supreme Court has a website where its decisions are posted, although none are translated into English. Dr. Pulungan described the search functionality of the site as being mediocre and indicated that the Supreme Court does publish a small number of its decisions in print.  In 2012, as part of USAID’s Changes for Justice Project, an electronic case tracking system (SIPP) was established that was designed to promote judicial transparency.  According to the speaker, it is possible to search by case number or party name to locate information.  Dr. Pulungan also noted that court decisions at all levels must be uploaded within three days of rendering.

Decisions of the Constitutional Court (established in 2001) are translated into English and available on the Court’s website.  The Constitutional Court is not an appellate court and its authority is vested in the third amendment to Indonesia’s Constitution.  The Court’s database can be searched by multiple variables, including case number, case name, applicant names, and keywords.  The Constitutional Court’s role is “The Guardian of the Constitution.”

According to Dr. Pulungan, Indonesian legislation is relatively easy to find online, but locating official English translations can be difficult. There are several databases of note that contain Indonesian legislation: the State Secretariat Database (updated daily); Lexadin; some UN agency websites (such as UNODC); and Hukum.  Hukum is the only commercial database available for Indonesian law in both English and Indonesian.

The speaker next turned to secondary sources.  She recommended Cornell University’s “Southeast Asia Program” website and a quarterly publication called Inside Indonesia. She also mentioned the English-language law journal, Indonesia Law Review , which is open access, and the Australian Journal of Asian Law that is hosted on SSRN. The Jakarta Post covers legal news and developments, and Dr. Pulungan also noted the “Indonesia at Melbourne” blog and the website of the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Indonesian Law, Islam and Society.

The speaker closed her talk by emphasizing that translating Indonesian legal materials into English is inherently difficult.  She provided an example of a phrase in Indonesian translated into English by Google Translate as “hiking education,” while a UNESCO document translated it as “educational streaming.” She advised attendees to search for more than one English translation. Dr. Pulungan has created a LibGuide on Indonesian law and told audience members that she was available via email for assistance.

A question from the audience was raised about religious courts, which she explained are unique and preside over family law matters. As an aside, the speaker mentioned that Indonesian couples who marry must be of the same faith; Dr. Pulungan’s husband is Australian, and he had to convert to Islam for a day in order for the marriage to be legal in Indonesia.  Another attendee asked whether any Indonesian court decisions are precedential. There is no precedent, she said, but Supreme Court decisions include practice notes that can influence lower courts.

ReceptionAfter Dr. Pulungan’s excellent talk,[1] audience members headed to the FCIL-SIS reception for foreign visitors.  The reception was well attended, and I enjoyed chatting with FCIL colleagues there. Keith Ann Stiverson, 2015-2016 AALL President, welcomed the guests and announced the numbers of foreign attendees:  27 from Canada, 17 from the UK, 2 from Australia, 1 from Hong Kong, 1 from Ireland, 2 from South Korea, and 1 from Switzerland.  Ms. Stiverson’s remarks were followed by a few words from IALL President Jeroen Vervliet (Peace Palace Library). Mr. Vervliet related his adventures in Hyde Park at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House. He also announced that the International Journal of Legal Information has a new publisher (Cambridge) and a new look. Mr. Vervliet presented a copy of the new issue to editor Mark Engsberg (Emory U) who had not yet seen it. Overall, it was a great party, although I admit I could have used a few more coconut shrimp.

 

[1] I will also add that Dr. Pulungan made a fashion statement with her dress constructed with fabric covered with images of books. Loved it.

 

Recap: Asian Legal Information in English: Availability, Accessibility, and Quality Control

By Amy Flick

Because I frequently need to help students find primary authority of other countries, yet have no hope of finding materials published in Chinese, Korean, or Japanese, I was pleased to see a program on Asian Legal Information in English in the AALL Annual Meeting program. I was even more pleased to find the program interesting, useful, and supplemented with handouts.

Alex ZhangAlex Zhang was the coordinator, moderator, and introductory speaker. She started by stressing the importance of good, reliable translations, but noted that even “official” translations by government entities are still for informational purposes only. In presenting the portion of the program on finding primary law of China, she included:

  • The official site NPC (National People’s Congress) Database of Laws and Regulations. The search box is unreliable, so Alex recommended browsing by category, requiring some knowledge of the structure of Chinese law to find the appropriate category. She cautioned that the laws retrieved may not include the dates of coverage, making it unclear for the user if they have the most current version.
  • State Council Laws & Regulations
  • Commercial sources including Lawinfochina, Westlaw China, and Lexis China, all comparable, and expensive, but Alex is most familiar with Lawinfochina. She recommends it for comprehensive coverage and inclusion of the most recent laws, and for a citator link to amendments to laws.
  • Although case law is not considered primary authority in China, a Stanford Law School project is translating Chinese Guiding Cases.

Alex wrapped up by noting that good translation is hard: “the question in legal translation isn’t which one is right, but which one is less wrong.” She suggests comparing and contrasting multiple translations and asking experts for help.

 

Anne Cathrine Mostad-JensenAnne Mostad-Jensen presented on law of Hong Kong and Macau. For these jurisdictions, she stressed that it is particularly important to understand their histories. Because of Hong Kong’s history as a British colony, it has a hybrid system of common and civil law, and English is one of its official languages for legal publication. Sources for Hong Kong legal information in English include:

Macao as a former Portuguese colony has a civil law system. English translation is available for only select legislation and some indexes, not for caselaw, and the translations are not official. Sources include:

 

Juice LeeJootaek “Juice” Lee demonstrated resources on law of the Republic of Korea in English. Although South Korea has a civil law system, it has been influenced by U.S. common law. English translations are not official, but English is widely used, and there are English language versions of most government websites. However, terminology can be an issue because of differences in civil and common law. Most primary sources are available in English, and government publishers try to provide accurate translations. Juice warned that Korean law changes rapidly, and English translations may not keep up. There are also issues with understanding the differences between public, private, and social law. He recommended sources including:

 

Mike McArthurMike McArthur had the final presentation in the program on finding Japanese law in English. Japanese efforts to be more international led to a 2004 Japanese law requiring translation of Japanese laws. Laws are first made available in tentative translation before an “official” version is available. Of course, translations are still unofficial. Mike warned that the Japanese calendar has a different date system, so he provided a “cheat sheet” for Japanese dates.  Sources for Japanese law in English include:

  • The Ministry of Justice’s Japanese Law Translation The database of laws and regulations is searchable with multiple options (title, number, category), and it has a dictionary for finding Japanese legal terms.
  • The Supreme Court of Japan. Although Japan has a civil law system, Supreme Court decisions are relevant, and some are translated into English.
  • An additional resource for Japanese legal research is ministry reports and white papers, which are translated into English, and which include detailed statistics.

Mike reminded the audience, as did the other speakers, that a legal researcher working with foreign languages and translations can get in over their head quickly, and that they should reach out to a specialist for help.

 

All of the presentations in the program were outstanding, and I appreciate the hard work by the speakers in putting them together!

AALL 2015 Recap: “As If Uttered by Our Own Inspired Mouth”: Researching the Corpus Juris Civilis

By Alyson Drake

Roman Law Program - croppedThe Legal History & Rare Book Special Interest Section and the FCIL-SIS Roman Law Interest Group had a joint meeting on July 21st to hear a fantastic talk on researching the Corpus Juris Civilis (CJC) by Fred Dingledy, Senior Reference Librarian at William and Mary Law.

Fred began by giving a history of the CJC, starting with Emperor Justinian I appointing the Codex commission in 528. He continued by providing a description of and the timeline for the development of each of the four components of the CJC:
1) the Institutes: the textbook for first year law students, and which also had binding legal effect;
2) the Digest: the compilation of writings of jurists from the late Roman Republic to the early third century AD;
3) the Codex: the compilation of excerpts from imperial constitutiones; and
4) the Novels: posthumous compilations of Justinian I’s constitutiones.
Fred also noted the organizational problems of the CJC, which can make it difficult to research.

Fred then explained about the medieval revival of CJC, and the subsequent translations of each of the four components of the CJC. He discussed the pros and cons of the various translations, and provided attendees with an annotated bibliography noting how to find those translations. Sources for various translations of each of the CJC’s components are available at online sources like Hein Online or for free at the Internet Archive. Want to read the whole CJC in the original Latin? Check out the edition by Krueger et al., which is considered to be the most authoritative version.

Finally, Fred talked about the relevance of the CJC through the Anglo-American English tradition, as the CJC was also very influential on many continental European legal codes; scholars such as Francis Bacon, John Adams, and William & Mary’s own George Wythe discussed it or cited it in their works. Fred also noted that it was cited as recently as 1997 in a U.S. Supreme Court case, Idaho v. Coeur d’Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 284 (1997).

Many thanks to Fred for a very interesting talk, filled with fun anecdotes.

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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).

LSU Law Professor Publishes First English Translation of Cornu’s Dictionary of the Civil Code

By Susan Gualtier

Professor Alain Levasseur of the Louisiana State University Law Center, along with Marie-Eugénie Laporte-Legeais and under the scientific coordination of Juriscope, has published the first English translation of Gérard Cornu’s seminal Vocabulaire juridique. The new book is the result of over two years’ worth of work by a multinational translation team and is published by LexisNexis:

The Dictionary of the Civil Code, an English translation of more than 1600 entries selected from the Vocabulaire Juridique of Gérard Cornu under the auspices of the Association Henri Capitant des amis de la culture juridique française, introduces to readers, jurists or not, the essential concepts of the French Civil Code. Key to an understanding of the civil law through its terminology as translated and explained in English, the definitions are enriched with references made to the Civil Code of Louisiana.

This work of reference on the French legal and civil law culture is an essential tool for comparatists, civilians, jurilinguists and translators.

The dictionary translates over 1600 entries selected from the French language Vocabulaire.  Each entry provides the French term, with a definition in English. Levasseur and his translation team have supplemented the original definitions with references to the Louisiana Civil Code. These added references are intended to illustrate the possibility of expressing civil law concepts in English without resorting to the terminology of the common law, as well as to be a useful resource for researchers of Louisiana civil law.  Aiming to capture the unique language and nuance of the civil law, Levasseur includes both recommended English equivalents for each term, as well as English terms to avoid.  The book also contains an index that allows the researcher use a known English language term to locate the appropriate French equivalent in the definitions section of the book.

Professor Levasseur spoke about the project in April at a symposium entitled The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project: Enhancing Visibility and Promoting the Civil Law in English, held on the LSU Law Center campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  Highlights from the symposium can be found in an earlier DipLawMatic Dialogues post.

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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.