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Spanish Vocabulary for Legal Terms and the Legal Professions

written by: Laura Wise • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 9/11/2012

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.

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    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

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    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.

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    Judge with toga

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    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

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    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

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