Problem words: remedy, jurisdiction

A recent query on a mailing list: why are remedies and jurisdiction so often mistranslated into German? (They don’t mean Rechtsbehelf and Rechtsprechung). Here are the two sample sentences (thanks to Nina):

bq. The laws of the State of Minnesota will govern the validity, construction,
performance, enforcement and remedies of or relating to this Agreement.

bq The distribution of this Prospectus and
the offering of the Shares may be restricted in certain jurisdictions.

I suspect that one translation will not do for every situation. In the second example here, I suppose one could say Staaten (states) or even Ländern. It’s true that a jurisdiction in this meaning is a territory with its own legal system, which means every single state in the USA and the USA itself, and means that in the UK there are three jurisdictions. But that doesn’t alter the fact that Ländern or Staaten would work here.

Part of the problem is that many people don’t even know what the German terms mean. Our students in Erlangen were often unable to define Rechtsprechung in English because they didn’t know what it meant in German, to my surprise (it means case law / court decisions).

Rechtsbehelfe are either 1) Rechtsmittel – appeals to a higher court (Berufung, Revision, Beschwerde) or 2) [nameless] – appeals on the same level (Einspruch, Widerspruch, Erinnerung, Gegenvorstellung)
I think I would call the whole lot appeals.

Remedies, also called relief or redress, are what you want a first-instance court to give you. The Oxford Dictionary of Law says

bq. Any of the methods available at law for the enforcement, protection, or recovery of rights or for obtaining redress for their infringement.

A common-law remedy is damages. Equitable remedies are an injunction or a decree of specific performance (inter alia).

Possible translations, depending on the context, are Klagebegehren, gerichtliche Abhilfe, Rechtsschutz, or Entschädigung. Rechtsbehelf sounds wrong, at least in most examples. Romain also gives Rechtsverwirklichung and Heilmittel. Concrete examples are really needed to discuss this.

Dietl translates equitable remedies as Mittel des Rechtsschutzes nach equity-Recht.

Jurisdiction can mean an area with a legal system, in which case Gerichtshoheit may sometimes work as a translation, but it can also mean competence: a court may have jurisdiction over a case (Zuständigkeit).

3 thoughts on “Problem words: remedy, jurisdiction

  1. Some additions from Nina:

    For remedies, one could also say Rechtsfolgen (aus Vertragsverletzungen) or rechtliche Mittel.

    For jurisdictions, Rechtssysteme would also work. Gerichtshoheit doesn’t work, because it means
    the right to exercise jurisdiction. Well, it works for the other meaning of the word: Zuständigkeit, but not for the meaning of ‘an area with a legal system’.

  2. Nice points. I don’t understand what’s the problem with the early-stage Rechtsanspruch for an original remedy. On German-lang. law papers, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve seen: Welchen (Rechts)anspruch (RA) hat A, B bzw. C or welcher RA steht ihnen zu? and the Eng.-lang equivalent: What remedy, if any, does X, Y or Z have? I’ve never yet seen claim at law/equity, though it’s feasible.

    Rechtsbehelf also seems to be commonly mixed up with Rechtsbegehren in a German-lang. writ/ statement of case where we would see claim(s) or prayer for relief in AE/BE. Unfortunately, a Swede thought injunctive relief meant mitigation of the effects of an injunction and may have applied for the wrong remedy before I pointed out that I thought the opposite was being applied for.

    I agree with the difference between sachliche (subject-matter/ ‘ratione materiae’) and örtliche Zuständigkeit (territorial/ ‘ratione loci’) jurisdiction.

  3. Margaret Marks of Transblawg has a post describing the attempt by Bremen lawyer Klaus Göken to file a patent application in Low German for “a sort of biodegradable mat for cattle to lie on,” which was to be called a…

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