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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Professor Barbara Pozzo of the University of Insubria, Italy, at Boyd

One of the goals at the Boyd School of Law is to prepare students for the global practice of law, where business is conducted and relationships are commonly formed not only across state lines, but also across national borders. Whether in courses that focus on international and transnational legal problems, such as International Business Transactions, International Intellectual Property, and International Commercial Arbitration, or in other courses, Boyd faculty strive to equip students with a solid understanding of the interactions and interdependencies of U.S., foreign-country, and international law. The comparative perspective permeates not only classes at Boyd but also other aspects of Boyd intellectual life; for example, several faculty members engage in comparative legal research and share their expertise in policy debates at national and international levels.

International guests who visit Boyd play an important role in exposing students to the legal systems of other countries. Boyd hosted one such visitor during the first week of the 2012 fall semester when Barbara Pozzo, Professor of Private Comparative Law at the University of Insubria, Italy, visited Boyd on August 20 – 25, 2012. Professor Pozzo, who specializes in comparative environmental law and issues of multilingualism in the European Union (“EU”), made two presentations to the Boyd faculty and students. In her first talk, Professor Pozzo introduced Boyd students to EU environmental law and explored key European legislation on environmental law. She used the area of environmental law to explain the difficulties associated with the process of harmonization (the alignment) of the laws of 27 EU member countries with varying legal traditions.

In her second presentation, Professor Pozzo discussed her recent article entitled English as a Legal Language in the Context of European Multilingualism: Problems and Perspectives. Fluent in four languages and equipped with a thorough knowledge of the differences among European national legal systems, Professor Pozzo identified the linguistic pitfalls that EU legislation faces as it endures daily translations into 23 official languages – translations that result in problematic differences among the 23 national language versions of EU legislation and decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU. The differences threaten the successful harmonization of national laws because they may – and do – cause inconsistencies in the transposition of EU legislation into national laws and the interpretation of EU legislation and case law in the national legal systems.

In her article Professor Pozzo also explores the transformation of the English language in the EU, where English terms have acquired new meanings that are grounded in EU legislation, and consequently EU legal English, also called “Brussels English,” has diverged from the legal English used in the United Kingdom. U.S. lawyers need to be aware of this problem; when reading English versions of EU laws and the decisions of the Court of Justice of the EU, not only may they not rely on their knowledge of U.S. law to provide guidance to the meaning of the text, but they also cannot rely on an assumption that the English text refers to basic common law concepts or current English law.