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Spanish Vocabulary for Legal Terms and the Legal Professions

By Laura Wise

You may need an attorney because you wish to buy a property, unexpectedly are a beneficiary or have suffered an accident. Learn the terminology to find your way around the legal jungle in Spain without a dictionary.

Codigos - Law Collections

The Spanish legal system is very different from the Anglo-Saxon law of the USA and UK. Based on the principles of Roman Law, Spain has codified law as opposed to case law. Whereas cases and court decisions in the US actually make the law, they serve as interpretations of the existing laws in Spain. These statutes are compiled in five major Codes:

Codigo Civil (CC) (m) - Civil Law

Codigo Penal (CP) (m) - Criminal Law

Codigo Mercantil (CM) (m) - Commercial Law

Ley de Enjuiciamiento Civil (LEC) (f) - Civil Law Procedure

Ley de Enjuiciamiento Penal (LEP) (f) - Criminal Law Procedure

There are of course many other laws and statutes besides, but these are the five basic law collections, issued in lose leaf binders, which are constantly updated as the laws change.

Codigo (m) - Code of law

Ley (f) - Law

Enjuiciamiento (m) - Procedure

Legal professions

Abogado (m) - attorney

Procurador (f) - no English equivalent

A procurador is a Spanish legal profession sui generis. (Latin, meaning: a kind of its own) He has to have a law degree just like an attorney and deals with the paperwork, as soon as a case is brought to court. He serves writs and defenses, notifies the parties about hearings, notifies witnesses, etc.. Under Spanish law, the participation of a procurador is obligatory in many cases, so if court proceedings are pending you have to instruct a procurador as well as an attorney and, of course, pay two sets of fees.

Honorarios (m) - fees

Tengo cita (f) - I have an appointment

Attorneys in Spain attend court dressed in a black toga, white shirt and white tie. No civilian clothes are allowed. The judges wear the same toga with the sleeves etched in white lace.

Notario (m) - Notary

A notary has a vey important function in Spanish law. No property transaction, no probate, no company incorporation, to name just a few, is valid unless executed and signed in front of a notary. In addition to a law degree, notaries have to undergo extensive training and pass additional exams before they are admitted to act as such.

Judge with toga

Spanish Legal terminology

Here is a brief dictionary of Spanish legal words.

Litigio (m) - litigation

Demanda (f) - claim

Respuesta (f) - defense

Demandante (m) - claimant

Demandado (m) - defendant

Danos y Perjuicios (m) - damages

Sentencia (f) - judgment

Testigo (m) - witness Perrito (m) - expert

Testimonio (m) - witness statement

Celebrar el juicio - court hearing

Jurar - make an oath

Despacho de abogado (m) - law offices

Recurso (m) - appeal

Oficial (m) - clerk

Sello (m) - seal

Escritura publica (f) - deeds

Escritura de compraventa - sale/purchase contract

Herencia (f) - estate

Heredero (m) - beneficiary

Acceptacion de herencia (f) - probate

Testamento (m) - will

olografo - handwritten

Registro de la Propiedad (m) - land registry

Nota simple (f) - land registry extract

Propietario (m) - owner

Hipoteca (f) - mortgage

Carga (f) - encumbrances like right of way etc.

Arrendamiento (m) - lease

Prestamo (m) - loan

Cuenta corriente (f) - bank account

Cheque confirmado (m) - cashier's check

en efectivo - cash

en metalico - cash

Sociedad (f) - corporation

Courts

Spain has a variety of courts. Here are a few terms and examples:

Juzagdo (m) - court

Juez (m) - judge

Fiscal (m) - prosecutor

Jurado (m) - juror

Juzgado de Primera Instancia (m) - county court

Audiencia Provincial (f) - next higher court

Audiencia Nacional (f)- Federal court

Tribunal Supremo - highest court