Evidentiary Translation Services for U.S. Courts

Certified Translation of Foreign Documents for Court

Evidentiary translation services play an important role in the administration of justice, especially when legal proceedings involve foreign parties, foreign witnesses, and foreign evidence.  French to English certified document translation services are often required in civil cases. Today we are covering a case pertaining to the French language. It is estimated that there are more than 321 million French language speakers around the world. Regardless of its global status, however, quite a number of translation issues often come up in relation to the French language in the legal system. The facts of today’s case arise in the country of Senegal located in West Africa. Senegal is a multilingual country, whose official language is French, and where other more rare languages, such as Pulaar/ Fulani; Wolof; Soninke; Mandinka; Arabic are spoken. The case itself was litigated in the courts of New York. The name of the case is Barry v Association des Senegalais d’Amerique, ASA, Inc., and it is from the Civil Court of the City of New York, Bronx County.

Certified Translation of French Documents from Senegal

The case involves the sale of a piece of land that supposedly occurred in Senegal. The dispute stemmed from the plaintiff-buyer’s claim that he did not receive title to the land despite paying $11,500.00 for the property. The defendants, however, admitted to the payment but stated that they conveyed the valid title to the plaintiff. To support their position the defendants offered into evidence a Senegalese deed written in French. This deed contained a couple of government stamps, one of which seemed to be from a purported government official. The deed was also accompanied by what appeared to be a map of the property.

Pursuant to New York law, specifically CPLR 2101(b), any documents submitted to the Court, not in the English language must be translated and also include the translator’s affidavit stating the translator’s qualifications and affirming that the translation is accurate. Notably, the defendants submitted the deed in the French language without an accompanying certified English translation. Nevertheless, the Court admitted the documents subject to the defendants submitting a properly certified copy of the alleged deed pursuant to CPLR 4542. CPLR 4542 governs the admission of foreign documents and states in pertinent part that “[a] foreign official record when admissible for any purpose, may be evidenced by an official publication thereof; or a copy thereof, attested by a person authorized to make the attestation, and accompanied by a final certification as to the genuineness of the signature and official position (1) of the attesting person, or (2) of any foreign official whose certificate of genuineness of signature and official position (i) relates to the attestation, or (ii) is in a chain of certificates of genuineness of signature and official position relating to the attestation.”

The defendants were given 60 days to submit the documents pursuant to CPLR 4542 but, the court noted, they neither submitted the authenticated French documents nor did they seek an extension of the 60 days deadline. The Court did point out, however, that complying with CPLR 4542 could be a burdensome task as the defendants would likely have to get the French documents certified either by consular officials of the Republic of Senegal in the United States, or by consular officials of the United States in Senegal. Based on the defendants’ failure to comply a judgment was entered in favor of the plaintiff.

Certified Translation of Official Foreign Language Documents

This case is significant as it highlights the importance of certified evidentiary translation services when it comes to civil litigation. Pursuant to New York law, the defendants could have prevented this outcome simply by having the French documents translated to English and submitted along with the French to English translator’s affidavit. As stated above, New York law CPLR 2101 mandates that certified translation of any and all non-English documents should be filed with the court.

Get in touch with the multilingual translation service All Language Alliance, Inc. to obtain certified translation of international contracts and certified translations of legal documents written in French, Portuguese, Hungarian, German, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Swedish, Dutch, Polish, Romanian, Hebrew, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Thai, Amharic; and to retain an qualified court interpreter to serve as an expert witness in U.S. cases involving French, Thai, Hawaiian, Romanian, Swahili, German, Polish, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Arabic, Oromo, Amharic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Mongolian language evidence.

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