Legal Document Translation
and Enforcing U.S. Judgments in Europe

Legal Translation of English Judgement Documents into Foreign Languages

There’s a growing need to translate English judgement documents into European languages. With the growing economic and political strength of the European Union, more and more transatlantic business is being conducted. This leads to an increase of transatlantic business contracts. Such contracts need to be translated into the language or languages of the European country, with which the U.S. company is conducting business. And, the more international business transactions there are, the more blurred the law that governs the enforcement of contracts becomes.

For example, if a U.S. company and a European company form an agreement and the European company breaches that agreement – what choices does the U.S. company have? If it gets a judgment against the European company in the U.S., will that judgment be upheld in Europe? What kind of foreign language translations are required? These are just some of the questions that surround the issue of enforcing a U.S. judgment in Europe.

According to general E.U. practice of the Member States, in order to have a judgment recognized in a European court, the judgment must be:

  • Final;
  • Based on a proper exercise of personal jurisdiction;
  • Based on proper service of process of the document initiating the lawsuit;
  • Based on proceedings that are fair;
  • Not violate the recognition state’s public policy;
  • Not be based on fraud;
  • Not be inconsistent with certain proceedings or decisions involving the same cause of action between the same parties.

However, these are just the minimum standards – as each European country has its own specific requirements often pertaining to reciprocity and choice of laws. Clearly, in order to ensure all the above stated rules and country-specific requirements are met, a foreign language translation of both the U.S. judgment and the foreign country’s law is of utmost importance. Without a proper foreign language translation of the judgment, a European court will likely not accept it for filing. Further, without services of a foreign language court interpreter, it will be impossible to show the above requirements have been met.

As a side note, special attention needs to be paid to the official language of the court in which the judgment will be filed. For instance, if a judgment is being filed in Belgium, depending on where exactly in Belgium, either its French language translation, or its Flemish language translation will need to be furnished. Similarly, various regional languages exist in Spain and Switzerland, to name only a few.

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