Translating the Foreign Blocking Statute Conflict

Legal Translations to Comply with Foreign Blocking Statutes

We’ve blogged about legal translation services for cross-border pre-trial discovery which often creates a conflict with the foreign blocking statutes. Conflict – there is something about it that just holds our interest. In any story that we find entertaining, there is always one primary aspect that keeps us watching, and that aspect is conflict.

Indeed, think about your favorite book, movie, or play, and you will find that all-important component, conflict. Batman would be a lot less interesting if he did not have foes like The Joker or The Riddler to confront. Where would we be if Luke Skywalker did not have to lock light sabers with Darth Vader? And why would we even tune in if any of the “Real Housewives” got along all the time?

Moreover, the courtroom drama is a classic device in which to spin a yarn. Why is that? Because we get to watch two parties engaged in a highly dramatic conflict before a judge and jury. It is a modern-day battleground.

Mind you, such legal battles are not only saved for legal thrillers you buy at the airport and major motion pictures. In fact, there is a very serious conflict going on right now in international legal circles. The conflict centers on so-called “foreign blocking statutes.” This article will dive into what the main conflict is all about with regard to these blocking statutes. Also, we will consider the vital importance of legal translation services in connection with the foreign blocking statute battle ongoing in the international legal world.

That said, if you are an international litigator facing a blocking statute issue, or simply have a case that requires the need for expert, professional legal translations, consider contacting us at All Language Alliance, Inc. Having worked with many, many international lawyers, and having translated countless technical, discovery documents, we are the experts in making sure that your discovery is translated quickly and correctly the first time. For more information, please call email us by filling out “Translate All Languages” form on the right.

What Are Foreign Blocking Statutes?

To begin, there is a very different legal philosophy between the United States legal system and the legal system of other countries. Whereas the United States legal system has a very liberal view of what information and documents should be shared between parties to a litigation, other countries like France and Germany have a much more constrictive view. It is most likely that the European model of litigation stems from the ancient Roman law, whereby one party should not be forced to assist their opponent in litigation.

Thus, when it comes to international litigation in which a U.S. company is engaged in a legal battle with a party in, say, France, a U.S. request for discovery may be met with resistance. Over the years, that resistance has become institutionalized in the form of a “blocking statute.”

Accordingly, a “blocking statute” is a statute enacted by a foreign country that effectively erects a barrier between a U.S. litigant’s desire to see documents from the other side, and the other side’s obligation to hand those documents over.

As you can imagine, a blocking statute creates additional conflict in a litigation between companies or parties that is already characterized by a primary disagreement. In short, a foreign blocking statute will “block” a U.S. party’s request for discovery.

What Accounts for the Difference in the Discovery Procedures?

Again, the difference in discovery procedure comes down to, essentially, where trust is placed. In the United States, the legal system by design puts most of the trust in the parties to a litigation. With lawyers bound by ethics rules progressing a case forward, those lawyers are trusted to honestly carry out the duty of exchanging information (i.e., engaging in the discovery process) fairly and honestly. The judge only gets involved if the parties hit a point of friction on particular items of discovery.

By contrast, foreign countries like France and Germany place the litigation trust in the judge, not the opposing lawyers. There is some logic to this because when litigants are locked in a dispute it may be difficult for the lawyers to be fair about revealing information. Thus, the neutral magistrate – the judge – will make the majority of the decisions as to what information needs to be exchanged prior to a trial.

What is somewhat ironic about the differing points of view here is that even though the U.S. system places the trust in the lawyers, the U.S. values lawyers who are “zealous advocates” for their side. In the European countries, the lawyers who do not feel obligated to help the other side with their case, operate in an overall system that expects that the lawyers are committed to helping in a search for the truth, rather than victory.

Certified Translations of Foreign Discovery Documents

Given the framework of the differences between the U.S. and European legal systems, conflicts abound as you would expect. In short, U.S. plaintiffs seek discovery and certified translations of foreign language documents in a far-reaching attempt to get as much information as possible, and those foreign defendants use the blocking statutes of their home country to avoid providing the requested discovery. Over the years, it appears that U.S. courts have been rather dismissive of the effect of foreign blocking statutes and the conflict rages on.

One important gloss in relation to all of the blocking statute issues is that we are dealing with international discovery matters. That means that regardless of the posture of the case, you as a lawyer representing an international litigant needs discovery documents accurately translated from various languages to English.

Certified legal translators at All Language Alliance, Inc. know precisely what you need. Working diligently for decades to build a sterling reputation, we are poised to help you with any international discovery translation project you have. Call us for more detail about our expert legal translation services at 303-470-9555.

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