District judges and judges

Here is a problem an EN>DE translator enquired about:

bq. If the decree nisi was pronounced by a *district judge* and the respondent wishes to appeal, he or she must serve notice of appeal and set down the appeal at this court (this court ist ein County Court) within 14 days of the date of the decree nisi.
If the decree nisi was pronounced by a *judge* and the respondent wishes to appeal …………within 4 weeks…….

This is from an English decree nisi. The document is not headed ‘decree nisi’, but why make things easy? It is a confirmation that the parties can have a divorce – get a decree absolute – six weeks later, unless some objection exists (arrangements for the children not made is the most common).

Until a few years ago, the county court had a judge and a registrar. The registrar – one of the many registrars that exist in English law – was called a ‘judicial officer’, a person who was not a judge but had some judicial functions. He or she dealt with interlocutory proceedings and even decided simpler matters. Was sometimes translated into German as Rechtspfleger.

But then registrars were renamed district judges, and given more demanding work too, I think.

Now we have a document saysing ‘If the decree nisi was pronounced by a district judge’ or ‘If the decree nisi was pronounced by a judge’. This is mind-boggling. It seems to imply that the district judge is not a judge – but why call him one, then? It looks as if there has simply been a failure to adapt the form.

It would be OK if instead of judge they wrote ‘circuit judge’, but presumably it isn’t necessarily. It could certainly be a Recorder.

I was asked if it means Amtsrichter. Well, in England, judges aren’t usually assigned to just one court. OK, in the House of Lords and the Court of Appeal they are, but we have High Court judges who may just as well be sitting in the Crown Court.

Perhaps one might write ‘durch einen Rechtspfleger (district judge) … durch einen Richter…’ To put ‘(judge)’ as the English name would also be odd, as it’s a generic.

Of course, we don’t have a district court. Many people assume that if there is a district judge, there must be a district court. And also, there is a second kind of district judge: as well as lay magistrates, England has stipendiary magistrates in big towns. These are qualified lawyers who sit alone. They too have been renamed ‘district judge’.

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