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Legal Japanese: Key Terms and Phrases for Law

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Learning legal terminology in a foreign language can be a particularly daunting challenge. For those studying Japanese, understanding key legal terms and phrases is essential whether you are planning to work in a legal environment, study law, or simply want to expand your vocabulary. Here’s a list of important legal Japanese terms you should know, each accompanied by a definition and an example sentence to help you see how it is used in context.

法律 (ほうりつ) – Law
This term refers to law in general or the legal system. It is the fundamental component of legal studies.
(It is often said that Japanese law is complex.)

契約 (けいやく) – Contract
“契約” is the Japanese word for contract, an agreement between parties that is enforceable by law.
(We entered into a contract regarding the new way of working.)

憲法 (けんぽう) – Constitution
The “憲法” is the supreme law that defines the framework of a state and the rights of individuals.
(The Japanese Constitution relies on the justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world.)

判決 (はんけつ) – Judgment
A “判決” is the decision made by a judge or court of law.
(The judge handed down the judgment.)

訴訟 (そしょう) – Litigation
“訴訟” refers to the process of taking legal action, or suing someone in a civil court.
(That company has a litigation filed against it.)

被告 (ひこく) – Defendant
The term “被告” is used to describe the individual or group who is being sued or accused in a court of law.
(The defendant claims to be innocent.)

原告 (げんこく) – Plaintiff
“原告” is the person or entity who brings a case against another in a court of law.
(The plaintiff is seeking damages.)

証拠 (しょうこ) – Evidence
Literally translated as “proof,” “証拠” is any material presented in a trial to support a fact or assertion.
(They don’t have evidence related to the crime.)

弁護士 (べんごし) – Lawyer
This term “弁護士” defines a professional who practices law, offering legal advice and services to clients.
(You might need to consult a lawyer.)

検察官 (けんさつかん) – Prosecutor
A “検察官” is an attorney who conducts a case against a defendant in a criminal court.
(The prosecutor is investigating the case in detail.)

公訴 (こうそ) – Public Prosecution
This refers to the legal proceeding whereby a prosecutor brings charges against a defendant on behalf of the state.
(The trial starts after the public prosecution is initiated.)

条文 (じょうぶん) – Article (of law)
This word is used to refer to a specific section or article within a legal document or statute.
(Please read and understand the article carefully.)

By familiarizing yourself with these legal Japanese terms, you will be better equipped to understand the basic concepts and discussions within Japan’s legal system. Whether you are dealing with contracts, understanding a court judgment, or getting to grips with the roles of various legal professionals, these terms provide the foundation for a solid understanding of Japanese law. Keep practicing and immersing yourself in legal documents, news, and conversations to continue to build your legal Japanese lexicon.

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