Translating ‘Rechtspfleger’ into English

In connection with a mailing-list query on how to translate Rechtspfleger into Italian, the European Union of Rechtspfleger was mentioned.

Until a few years ago, there was a registrar at the English county courts, a kind of sub-judge, who seemed similar to the German Rechtspfleger. But these were renamed district judges and so I hesitate to use the term – not everybody understood it even when it was generally used, and still fewer now. And there were always other registrars: registrars of births, deaths and marriages, company registrars.

The website of this ‘European Union’ is odd. Their symbol recalls the EU and uses the 12 stars, but the reference is to the Council of Europe (Europarat), which surely doesn’t use the stars? Very misleading. They appear to call themselves – in English – greffier/Rechtspfleger. They appear to have links with the Justices’ Clerks’ Society in England and Wales, but that is something quite different – a justices’ clerk is a lawyer who advises lay magistrates.

Unfortunately the English on their site leaves much to be desired, if I may mention that sore point again:

Rechtspfleger are judicial officials to whom judicial tasks were transferred to be done by themselves in their own responsibility. They belong to the higher staff of the judicial organisation, the transfer of judicial tasks needs an at least three years lasting, highly qualified formation.

3 thoughts on “Translating ‘Rechtspfleger’ into English

  1. Good points, Margaret.

    Unless there’s also an Urkundsbeamte/in der Geschäftsstelle in there with the stamps at the bottom of the court judgment, I’d stick with (Divisional) Registrar for Rechtspfleger.

    Justices’ Clerk seems to be an ‘official’ version. Even if prefixed ‘German-qualified’, the term would still conjure up to me a parochial Eng. & Wales clerk.

    Aware of the AE v. BE divide, I also confess to using: Junior Law Officer (Senior Law Officer in the UK denoting the A-G etc.) or Judicial Assistant – even though in Eng. & Wales at the Court of Appeal, they are gen. young lawyers ‘shadowing’ a judge in appeal cases.

  2. The trouble with that is the association with the Court of Appeal. I usually prefer to avoid terms with a meaning in English law, and the former use of ‘registrar’ had that problem too. I prefer the junior law officer and judicial assistant. But I will have to give some more thought to this.

  3. It is hard to translate the Rechtspfleger into English. I live in the USA and try to explain my education (I am also a Diplom-Rechtspflegerin FH). But nothing here compares to what we have in Germany so it is hard to explain something that does not exist. Also, a lot of private institutions or lawyers do transactions/jobs that a Rechtspfleger does in Germany. I compare it to a Physician’s Assistant here in the USA, a job we don’t have in Germany. Just as a Physician’s Assistant is a person that can see patients and prescribe medication (just on a limited basis) a Rechtspfleger can make judgments on a limited basis. But I have almost given up on explaining the job to Americans because the legal system here is so different.

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