The rule of law is confusing. Uncommon words are used to say common things and Latin is frequently used, despite the fact that 99% of the readers do not speak Latin. So virtually every original legal document requires a translation before anyone in the business community can read it. Everyone is upset about rule breaking and yet the rules are written in a way no one can understand.
President Obama signed into law, on October 13, 2010, the Plain Writing Act of 2010, a United States federal law that requires that federal executive agencies to use plain writing in every covered document that the agency issues or substantially revises. As is often the case with the general public, if you don’t enforce the law, the law may not always be followed. Even if this law was enforced there may not be an attenuation in the plethora of complicate legal documenta that seems to peste our società.
Adam Turteltaub has said, “You could argue that the job of compliance officer is to serve as translator. Our job is to make the complex, hard to pronounce, foreign-sounding stuff as easy to read as the menu board of McDonald’s.” Below are just a few of the legal terms that almost always require a translation.
These terms are defined on uscourts.gov/glossary
|Amicus curiae||friend of the court|
|Bench trial||trial without jury|
|Cause of action||legal claim|
|De jure||in law|
|Nolo contendere||no contest|
|Per curiam||for the court|
|Pro se||representing oneself|
English speaking people understand the words on the right but not the words on the left. Why speak in a way that no one understands when many of the words have short English translations? If you want to say a civil wrong, say it rather than saying tort. If you want to send something back, send it back rather than remand it. I wonder if people in Italy use “friend of the court” in legal documents rather than amicus curiae?
This is an excerpt from the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
(g) Alternative Jurisdiction
(1) It shall also be unlawful for any issuer organized under the laws of the United States, or a State, territory, possession, or commonwealth of the United States or a political subdivision thereof and which has a class of securities registered pursuant to section 12 of this title or which is required to file reports under section 15(d) of this title, or for any United States person that is an officer, director, employee, or agent of such issuer or a stockholder thereof acting on behalf of such issuer, to corruptly do any act outside the United States in furtherance of an offer, payment, promise to pay, or authorization of the payment of any money, or offer, gift, promise to give, or authorization of the giving of anything of value to any of the persons or entities set forth in paragraphs (1), (2), and (3) of this subsection (a) of this section for the purposes set forth therein, irrespective of whether such issuer or such officer, director, employee, agent, or stockholder makes use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce in furtherance of such offer, gift, payment, promise, or authorization.
I looked a couple times and I can only find one period. I have seen blog posts shorter than this sentence. Why wouldn’t you write this section more clearly? Flesch-Kincaid rated this section of the FCPA Act at 0% readability. Its readability ranking is at the 79.8th grade level. Ironically, the international age of death for a male is about 80. So if you went to school until you died, in your last weeks of life, you could understand this regulation.
Talking about a law is not enough, especially in its original form. The compliance department not only translates legal documents, but pulls out pertinent pieces of a regulation and then educates employees, puts in controls, audits, monitors, etc. Compliance officers help translate the rule of law into something business people can understand and help business units incorporate the law into their operations. And that is a brava cosa.CCO’s The Emancipating Exegetist of Unnecessarily Contorto Legal DocumentaClick To Tweet