Judgment/Beschluss und Urteil

This is about translating the German words Urteil and Beschluss.

Here’s the German Federal Labour Court (Bundesarbeitsgericht) on its English pages:

There are two different kinds of Labour Court procedures, “Urteil” procedures and “Beschluss” procedures. They differ in terms of the kind of decision they lead to (“Urteil” or “Beschluss”). The main difference is, however, that in “Urteil” procedures, it is the responsibility of the parties to provide the court with the necessary information and evidence needed to make a decision, while in “Beschluss” procedures, it is largely the responsibility of the court to establish the facts of the case.

Here’s Donald Kommers, in The Constitutional Jurisprudence of the Federal Republic of Germany:

A decision handed down on the basis of an oral proceeding is known as a judgment (Urteil); a decision handed down in the absence of oral argument is labeled an order, or ruling (Beschluss). The distinction is formal, however; whether an Urteil or a Beschluss, the judgment binds all state authorities, and decisions having the force of general law … must be published in the Federal Law Gazette…

Yet again I have encountered a translator who insists on translating Urteil as judgment and Beschluss as order.

But we don’t have this distinction in English. They are both judgments. If it’s necessary to distinguish, I would add a brief definition. Many Beschlüsse are just as long as Urteile, so order won’t do. In any case, Verfügung would often be translated as order – something much narrower.

But what about the word ruling, a synonym of decision? Potentially better, but still, by translating Urteil as judgment and Beschluss as ruling, you will confuse the English reader, who will wonder what the difference is supposed to be.

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