Challenging Unfavorable Ruling Resulting from Unethical Use of Foreign Language Documentary Evidence

Irrespective of the availability of foreign language legal document translations, various issues may come up in the context of foreign language evidence. What happens if an opposing party uses a foreign language document in an unethical manner and receives a favorable judgment because of it? Can the ruling be challenged, based on the unethical use of the document? If so, what is the standard of review?

The answer to the above questions is yes, so long as the challenging party is able to demonstrate:

1) The use of the foreign language documentary evidence was in fact unethical, and

2) The use of foreign language documentary evidence played a substantial role in the court reaching its decision.

To demonstrate an unethical use of a foreign language document, the challenging party must turn to that particular jurisdiction’s code of ethics. As each state’s code varies greatly, what is unethical in one state may be completely ethical in another. If the action is unethical, then there are grounds for appeal. (See, in general, Rico v. Mitsubishi Motors Corporation et al., Super. Ct. No. RCV39233 2007)

The next step is then to demonstrate that the unethical use of the foreign language document in fact played a substantial role in the court’s decision. Typically this is framed as a “But For” question, or “but for the unethical use of the foreign language document, the Court would not have reached the same unfavorable outcome”. If it is shown the unethical use of the foreign language document was the deciding factor in the court’s unfavorable ruling, then there are grounds for appeal. (Sufficiency of Evidence or Plain Error Standard of Review)

To read our earlier legal translation blog entry ” Language Translation and Ethical Issues of Filing Privileged Foreign Language Documents: The Receiving Attorney’s Side”, click here. And to read ” Legal Document Translations, and Ethical Issues of Filing Privileged Foreign Language Documents: The Filing Attorney’s Side”, click here.

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