Archive for the ‘Guest columns’ Category
As a sitting judge on a general trial court for twenty years, I ran across many things that made me wonder if anyone knew anything about the law. There is, of course, no secret that lawyers and their co-conspirators in all levels of government work daily and diligently to make the law incomprehensible. (CPAs are also guilty, but that’s another blog post.) So if we lawyers make things difficult, we shouldn’t complain when people don’t understand it, right? Wrong.
Here are but three of many things that make me growl.
(1) “A divorce (or dissolution of marriage or whatever your state calls it) is not a lawsuit.”
This one baffles me. Once I was speaking to a non-lawyer and I said, “John sued Mary for divorce.” The fellow answered, “No, he didn’t sue her. He filed a divorce. That’s different.”
If you are married and you do not want to be married, the only legal way I know of to accomplish that is to file a lawsuit asking the court to unhitch you. You must file a petition (or complaint or whatever your state calls it) and the court that hears divorce cases. That makes you the plaintiff (or petitioner or whatever your state calls it). The other party to the lawsuit (your soon to be ex-spouse) is called the defendant (or respondent or whatever your state calls it).
In some states, if you’ve agreed on everything, you can file a notice of settlement and some judge will sign a judgment, declaring you and your sweetie to no longer be married.
If you can’t agree, there could be a knock-down, drag-out courtroom battle that concerns everything from child custody to who gets the matched salt-and-pepper shakers from Hawaii.
That, my friends, is a real lawsuit, the same as if it was Standard Oil and the EPA.
(Note: I heard a divorce case where two judges were getting a divorce. They couldn’t agree on the disposition of a manure spreader. [Insert manure spreader joke here.] I decided it for them and they haven’t complained since.)
(2) “If you have a will, you don’t need to go through probate court.”
As far as I know, there is no such thing as an automatic will anywhere in any state or territory of the United States. (Correct me if I’m wrong. I’d love to see how that works! And, keep reading.)
When you die, there are two ways your stuff (if you have any stuff leftover from paying taxes all your life) is split one of two ways: You have a will or the government decides where your stuff goes.
This one I shouldn’t get too upset about because of the growing prevalence of trusts and other non-probate transfers of property. Such things keep you away from the probate division of the court to some degree or the other (depending on your state).
Free legal advice: Go to a competent—meaning you’ve done your research on the person—estate planning lawyer. Get a financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney, a will, a trust, and advice on how transfer/pay on death works in your state. This can save you a lot of money and heartache. If you don’t care where your stuff goes and you don’t care if you have heartache and grief, then don’t do anything or use forms you found on the Internet.
And there’s no “reading of the will” except on soap operas. In fact, after you make out all your estate-planning documents, you should give photocopies to your potential heirs—you don’t have heirs until you die—and make sure they know how to get to your safe place after you pass. Protect your valuable documents from fire, flood, wind, earthquake, and critters (four- and two-legged).
(3) “Bail and bond mean the same thing.”
BAIL is generally how much the judge wants before you get out of jail and BOND is generally how the bail is made. Don’t ever expect journalists to get this right. And judges and lawyers often confuse it also.
The best way to knock this one flat is to give you three scenarios.
ONE: Danny Defendant has been arrested for a felony and the judge says, “You’ve always shown up in the past when you’ve been arrested so I’ll let you out on your own recognizance and we’ll take your word for it that you’ll be back for your trial.” This is a recognizance bond (or signature bond or whatever your state calls it).
TWO: Danny Defendant has been arrested for a felony and the judge says, “$10,000 cash only bail.” Danny’s decrepit grandmother who barely scrapes by on Social Security, sells her great-grandmother’s diamond ring and forks over $10,000 in cash to the court and gets a receipt made in Danny Defendant’s name. When he shows up, she gets the dough back. If he doesn’t show up, the government keeps the money. This is cash bond (or whatever your state calls it).
THREE: Danny Defendant has been arrested for a felony and the judge says, “$10,000 bail.” Chico leaves the Little League game he’s sponsoring and hustles down to the jail. Chico sells Danny a bail bond for $1000 which is paid for by Danny’s decrepit grandmother who gets a receipt made out in Danny’s name. If Danny shows up when the court tells him to, then the bond is cancelled. If Danny does not show up when the court tells him to, the bond is forfeited and Chico sues the decrepit Grandma for all she’s worth since Danny is gone. This is a bail bond (or whatever your state calls it).
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After two decades on the bench, Bill Hopkins captures readers with his Judge Rosswell Carew murder mysteries. How does a judge manage to wrangle his way into investigating so many crimes? And can he do it without crossing into the dark side himself? Find out by reading the complete series beginning with Courting Murder, followed by River Mourn and Bloody Earth.
Bill Hopkins is retired after beginning his legal career in 1971 and serving as a private attorney, prosecuting attorney, an administrative law judge, and a trial court judge, all in Missouri. His poems, short stories, and non-fiction have appeared in many different publications. He’s had several short plays produced. A book of collected poetry, Moving Into Forever, is available on Amazon. Bill is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Dramatists Guild, Horror Writers Association, Missouri Writers Guild, Romance Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. Bill is also a photographer who has sold work in the United States, Canada, and Europe. He and his wife, Sharon (also a published writer), live in Marble Hill, Missouri, with their dogs and cats. Besides writing, Bill and Sharon are involved in collecting and restoring Camaros.
Please take a moment to visit Judge Bill Hopkins at www.judgebillhopkins.com
Finn found a pale blue T-shirt at the back of the closet that had a corny slogan only a math teacher would find funny. It had a beer can and the limit definition of the derivative on the front of it. On the back it said Never Drink and Derive.
Pretty clever, right? At least for a math pun. What do you think, how well will this translate into other languages? Not too well into German, considering that the German words for drive and derive are “fahren” and “ableiten”. There goes the pun.
I’m a translator, and I translate books from English into German. That excerpt comes straight from my desk (from Amy Harmon’s “Infinity + One”). Puns like this are part of the reason why translating is more than just looking up words in a dictionary and stringing them together. Translating a book into a foreign language requires careful adaption to make sure that the (in my case) German version creates the same effect on the reader as the English original did. Everything that could take the reader out of the story because he or she has no idea what is meant has to be localized, with the utmost respect to author and story.
In order to do my job properly, I have to become invisible. Have you ever read a book that was not originally written in the language you are reading it in and thought: “Man, that translator did a great job”? Whenever the translator is mentioned in a review, it’s usually because he or she did a poor job. So when reviewers write that the author’s style is fantastic, that the book was so much fun and very easy to read, that the puns were clever and the mystery suspenseful, I feel that I’ve done both the book and the author justice.
When I started learning English at the age of fourteen, my teacher gave me some great advice: “Always assume that the sentence made sense before you tried to translate it.” That’s a pretty good guideline for a professional translator. It’s crucial to fully understand the original book. If I know that something is supposed to be funny but I don’t get the joke, I must have missed something. The same applies to any references I don’t get. This is where translation becomes more than just looking up words, it’s about being pretty knowledgeable about foreign traditions and cultural references.
If the text talks about cream tea, it helps to know that this doesn’t refer to a tea with cream but to a traditional English meal where the tea is actually served with milk, but the scones come with clotted cream. If a character claims that she seems to have moved to Mayberry, it helps to know about the Andy Griffith Show. But what do you do if that show never aired in Germany, and your German readers will have no idea what the lady is referring to? You get creative. After spending weeks trying to come up with TV characters that would create the same image with the German reader as Barney Fife and Andy Taylor, I took a completely different approach by referring to two different tools, a sharp one and a not so sharp one. Mayberry became the toolbox. Footnote averted.
However, I try very carefully to keep the original setting very much alive in the story. If a private eye lives in Los Angeles, I will not move him to Cologne to make it easier for the German readers to relate to him and his surroundings. But if he talks a lot about taking Advil, I might change that to Ibuprofen, though, because Advil is not available in Germany and is therefore unknown to the German readers. By changing the brand name to the agent, it becomes immediately clear that we are talking about a painkiller (my pharmacist loves these consultation visits, by the way).
The German language works differently from the English language, and we even have different gestures. Putting somebody’s head between their knees will not immediately tell the reader that this person must have felt sick – it just seems like a strange thing to do. So you either explain it in a throwaway line, making sure it doesn’t take the reader out of the story, or you find a gesture that is familiar to Germans and conveys the same meaning. However, you need to make sure that you are not doing all the thinking and interpreting for the reader — show, don’t tell.
And there is the dreaded issue of “Sie” and “du”. The German language differentiates the English “you” into a formal “Sie” for people who have either just met or have a business rather than a personal relationship, and the “du” between friends and family. When translating a book you have to make a lot of decisions – how do the characters address each other to make it sound organic, and at what point do the protagonists switch from “Sie” to “du” (assuming they met for the first time during the course of the story)? I once had to re-write an entire scene after finishing the book because it only turned out in the end that the hero and the cop who arrested him at the beginning were brothers. During the arrest, they had a conversation in front of witnesses. I couldn’t use the “Sie” because family members wouldn’t address each other that formally, but didn’t want to use “du” either to keep the element of surprise until the end as the author intended. So I had to carefully craft a conversation that avoided all addressing but without sounding unnatural as not to alert the reader that something must be up with those two.
And this is exactly why I love my job. I love the challenge, and that I get to bring new stories to the German readers.
I once read that submitting for a book for translation is like sending a child to live abroad. But with your translator, there is family abroad who will take care of your child and love it as if it was their own.
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Jeannette Bauroth is a professional English-German translator with a 10-year career and a love of books—especially humorous and romantic mysteries. She enjoys working with authors and specializes in indie publications. Together with her friend Corinna Wieja she founded “Indie Translations” (www.indie-translations.com) to help indie authors bring their stories to the German readers.
Jeannette investigating a murder at the 2014 Writers’ Police Academy.