Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Terminology issues: Sąd Apelacyjny vs. the Court of Appeal

      Sąd apelacyjny is commonly used as an equivalent of ‘the Court of Appeal’. Let us examine if   these courts can be regarded as each other’s counterparts. The Court of Appeal consists of two divisions: the Civil Division and the Criminal Division, while Sąd apelacyjny also distinguishes a third one, namely labour and social insurance division. In both courts the general assumption is that the facts found by the trial at the lower instance court are correct and the appeal takes into consideration only the main points i.e. the matters of law. In the English tradition this is done at a ‘national hearing’, which is virtually a new trial based on the previous one. In contradiction, Polish sources (cf. Kalina-Prasznic 2007) stress that an appeal is a continuation of the proceedings of the first instance court and sąd apelacyjny plays only a supplementary role. Yet, just like other civil law courts, it is capable of conducting a re-examination of the case, scrutinizing not only the questions of law but also the questions of fact (Geeroms 2002:229). Finally, the decision is made; in the English court by three judges, either unanimously or by majority, though each judge has to speak to express his opinion; in the Polish court, the decision is given by a presiding judge or in the case of his/her absence by his/her deputy. Sąd apelacyjny may either dismiss the appeal, which will mean concurring with the court of first instance, modify the appeal and make a ‘new’ decision or simply overturn the previous decision and order a re-examination of the case. Another vivid incongruity between the appeal systems in civil and common law is that in the continental tradition, the appeal case is passed from the court of lower instance to the next court above in the hierarchy, common law courts, however, are capable of giving the judgment to the court two instances higher, e.g. from the High Court to the House of Lords.

        Even though sąd apelacyjny and the Court of Appeal are not fully compatible, there are no serious reasons why the translator should reject these terms as functional equivalents.

Geeroms, Sophie. “Comparative Law and Legal Translation: Why the Terms Cassation, Revision and Appeal Should Not Be Translated...” The American Journal of
Comparative Law. 50:1 (2002). 25 August 2008

Kalina-Prasznic, Urszula. Encyklopedia prawa. Wyd. 4. Warszawa: Wydawnictwo C.H. Beck 2007
the Polish Parliament’s web page: