Oregon State Bar Bulletin — JANUARY 2010
Letters

Experience Noted
I was very pleased to see Janine Robben’s article on the vanishing civil jury trial in the November 2009 issue of the Bulletin (“Oregon’s Vanishing Civil Jury Trial”). This is an issue of great interest to me, which is why I appointed the committee chaired by Judge Janice Wilson to which the article refers.

I am concerned, however, about the perpetuation of a pernicious myth that “the vast majority of trial judges taking the bench don’t have any civil litigation background.” It is not unlike the myth that continues to circulate among lawyers that civil cases are rarely assigned out for trial because of a lack of courtrooms. In the two years that I have been presiding judge, we have assigned out every civil case on which the lawyers report ready for trial. Incorrect information on these subjects may unnecessarily discourage parties with civil disputes from using our courts to resolve them.

I do not have the statistics for our courts statewide, but in Multnomah County, of the 25 judges to whom civil motions or trials might be assigned, 17 (68 percent) practiced civil litigation before taking the bench. Litigants and lawyers should be assured that we have judges who understand their issues and their needs, and courtrooms available for their trials.

Jean Kerr Maurer,
Portland
Presiding Judge, 4th Judicial District (Multnomah County)

 

Thanking Public Service Attorneys
Thank you for highlighting Eric Deitrick, a dedicated public defender, in the December issue of the Bulletin (“Home for the Holidays”). Eric is one of 21 attorneys who have been chosen to participate in the OSB Loan Repayment Assistance Program (LRAP), designed to aid Oregon attorneys who choose a career in public service law.

Since its inception in 2007, the program has disbursed $5,000 per year, for up to three years, to aid those lawyers in repaying their educational debt. Unfortunately, this is only a drop in the bucket. So far, 96 lawyers have applied to the program, with most being turned away due to limited program funding. All of the applicants practice as staff attorneys with civil legal aid organizations or other nonprofit organizations providing direct legal services to the poor, or as public defenders or deputy district attorneys. Their average educational debt exceeds $100,000, while the recipients chosen thus far have had an average salary of $39,000.

As Eric so eloquently showed, choosing a career in public service law often requires that an attorney forego what most of us consider to be essentials: trips home for the holidays, home or car ownership and other similar “luxuries.” Many of us would not make this choice, and certainly could not make it our life’s work.

Those of us who have served on the LRAP Advisory Committee, along with all of the OSB members, thank our hardworking public service attorneys. Let’s all continue to do what we can to support them and the work they do.

Linda Eyerman,
Portland
Chair, OSB Loan Repayment Assistance Program Advisory Committee

 

Tips for Translators
As a lawyer and translator, I enjoyed Lillian Clementi’s “Cost in Translation” (December 2008). I supplement my income (and, just as important, refresh my brain) by translating documents from Spanish, Portuguese and French into English. This dual professional life has given me insights about translating and the law over the years, and I’d like to share some of them.

Why hire a translator? It’s expensive, whether you retain a translator directly or go through an agency that pays that person. Surely, you think, your office has someone who grew up speaking Spanish or majored in Japanese. Alternatively, why not just run a document through a free online translation utility?

Clementi is correct that such strategies court disaster. Your colleague who was a missionary in Brazil or Cape Verde may not know that celebrar could mean to enter into or solemnize a contract instead of to celebrate something, that a concordata may be a form of insolvency rather than a generic agreement, or that the Procuradoria-Geral da República is the Public Prosecution Service, not the National Procurement Office. In French, traitement may mean “salary,” not “treatment,” and traîtres refers to neither salaries nor treatments but to traitors.

A good translator not only knows these things but also will have a wealth of useful background knowledge and a librarian’s research skills. The translator will, for example, understand the intricacies of Spanish surnames and search the Internet to translate mysterious acronyms.

Lack of specialized legal knowledge does impose limits even on the best translators. Do not rely on your translator to provide legal advice, even implicitly. In Brazil, the aforementioned concordata is one term referring to insolvency and falência is another. The concordata remedy may now be unavailable under Brazilian law. Even the rare individual who is both a lawyer and translator is not likely to understand these subtleties. At some point it will become necessary to consult counsel in the other jurisdiction.

The Internet has vast resources for locating translators. I have a private client but also list myself on ProZ.com, a translation portal. That is one place at which you can find people who will translate between a variety of language pairs, some quite obscure. There are, of course, good translators and bad, so caveat emptor.

In my experience, most prospective clients label their translation requests “urgent.” This may be unavoidable, but try not to subject translators to severe deadlines. You’ll get a better translation. Moreover, if you give an agency a 30,000-word text and impose a three-day deadline, the agency will have to apportion the project and either send back a nonuniform translation or charge to have another translator harmonize the translators’ work.

Theodore J. Stroll,
San Jose, Calif.


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