Guest post – The Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project

It gives me great pleasure to welcome Mariano Vitetta, a law academic and legal translator originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. After completing an LL.M. in Comparative Law, Mariano is now a Research Associate at the Center of Civil Law Studies, Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University in the United States. His current project is translating the Louisiana Civil Code into Spanish.

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Translation is at the foundation of Louisiana’s unique legal system. Not surprising that so many experts in law and language have focused their attention on this southern US state.

The Center of Civil Law Studies (CCLS), at the Louisiana State University Law Center, was established in 1965 with the purpose of promoting the scientific study of the civil law in the State. Among the many efforts promoted by the CCLS, translation has always been at the forefront.

Louisiana has had a civil code since 1808, when the Digest of the Civil Laws Now in Force in the Territory of Orleans was enacted. That first civil code was drafted in French and translated into English. It was published in a bilingual format at the outset. In 1825, a new Civil Code saw the light, again in a bilingual French-English version. After the Civil War, in 1870, Louisiana passed its newest Civil Code, this time in English only. That version is still in force today, though with many revisions and amendments.

In 2011, the current Director of the CCLS, Professor Olivier Moréteau, a world-renowned expert in comparative law trained in France, started the Louisiana Civil Code Translation Project. This effort reached a milestone in 2016, when the French translation was completed. A print version saw the light of day in 2017. Prof. Moréteau led a team of translators made up by law professors and second-year students of the Master Juriste Trilingue at the Université de Nantes. The project was made possible by a grant of the FACE Foundation, supporting French-American cultural exchange in education and the arts. Prof. Moréteau also relied on a Validation Committee which looks like a who’s who of English-French legal translation: Emmanuel Didier (Ottawa), Jean-Claude Gémar (Geneva, Montreal), David Gruning (New Orleans), Nicholas Kasirer (Québec), Alain Levasseur (Baton Rouge), Matthias Martin (Nancy), and Michel Séjean (Bretagne-Sud). Full credits for all the participants in the French translation project can be consulted here.

The complete French translation is now accessible at the dedicated LSU website. Excerpts of the translation were also published along the way in the Journal of Civil Law Studies.

In 2020, the CCLS decided to kick off the translation into Spanish, a Spanish version having been considered since the inception of the project. In June 2020, Prof. Moréteau recruited Mariano Vitetta, an English-Spanish certified translator (traductor público de inglés) and lawyer from Argentina, who was part of the LL.M. of 2019-2020. María Natalia Rezzonico, also a certified translator and lawyer from Argentina, joined as assistant translator and reviser. Prof. Moréteau directs the project and supervises the translation.

The Spanish translation team is supported by a Validation Committee including renowned civil law and translation experts from different Spanish-speaking countries: Jimena Andino Dorato (Montreal), Francisco Alterini (Buenos Aires), Ignacio Alterini (Buenos Aires), Ricardo Chiesa (Buenos Aires), Alejandro Garro (New York), Aniceto Masferrer (Valencia), Luis Muñiz Argüelles (San Juan), Agustín Parise (Maastricht), Julio César Rivera (Buenos Aires), Andrés Sánchez Herrero (Rosario), and Lécia Vicente (Baton Rouge).

Just like with the French translation, the CCLS is publishing excerpts in the Journal of Civil Law Studies, and the dedicated website will be regularly updated. More information on the Spanish translation can be found here, together with the first 60 articles translated into the language of Cervantes.

The CCLS wants to circulate the Louisiana Civil Code Translation project as widely as possible, especially now that the Spanish translation is under way. If readers would like to send any comments to make the translation better, the translation team will be delighted to incorporate any appropriate changes.

Contacts: Prof. Olivier Moreteau, moreteau@lsu.edu; Mariano Vitetta, mvilet1@lsu.edu; Center of Civil Law Studies, ccls@lsu.edu

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