How to address a Judge of a US Federal Court



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HONOR & RESPECT

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   1. Formula For
       How to Address     
   2. Q&A / Blog On
       Use of Rank by
       Retired Military    
 

   3. Q&A / Blog on
       How to Address
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How to Address a Judge
of a United States Federal Court


Envelope, official:
    The Honorable
        (Full name)
             (Name of Court)
                 (Address)

Letter salutation:
    Dear Judge (surname):

All about The Honorable
Link to Q&A just on officials in the U.S. addressed as The Honorable

How Do I Address a Former Official?
Link to Q&A /Blog just on Former Officials  (not Military)


FYI, here is what's come in to the Blog that relates to this office/rank.
   For recent questions sent in, check out Robert Hickey's Blog.

   For specific offices/ranks, check out Robert Hickey's On-Line Guide.


Is a Retired Judge Still Addressed as a Judge?
       I am interim director at the Montgomery County Historical Society. A retired county judge is giving the invocation at our annual dinner. Is it still correct to call him judge on the agenda?

            -- Anne Hendrickson

Dear Ms. Hendrickson:
     Unless he or she left the bench in dishonor, retired judges continue to be in writing The Honorable (Full Name) and continue to be orally addressed as Judge (surname).
      If you write his name on the agenda ... he is The Honorable (Full Name).
              -- Robert Hickey

Is a Former Appointed Official
Still Addressed as The Honorable?

Dear Robert,
     I have a question regarding a former judge (judges in our jurisdiction are appointed, not elected) who by his own choice returned to private practice. When he was a judge he was the Honorable. Would he still be addressed "The Honorable," and as "Judge (Name)", or would that be inappropriate because of his new role as a lawyer in private practice?
             --- Mark

Hi Mark,
    Two part answer:
    1) The general rule is "once The Honorable, always The Honorable."  So addressing a social envelope to a retired judge would be as follows:
        The Honorable (full name)
            Address

        Retired judges are socially addressed in conversation as Judge (surname). 
In a social salutation you would address a retired judge as Dear Judge (surname). 
    2) However if a retired or former official who has assumed another form of employment (for pay) is not accorded the courtesies of a current or retired official in a subsequent professional context.  A judge who has assumed another position -- e.g., returned to private practice  --- is addressed as "Mr./Ms. (surname)".
     He or she might be addressed as
Judge (Name) in a purely social context and might identify himself as
Judge when he issues a wedding invitation for his daughter: Judge and Mrs. (Full Name) request the pleasure ... but he would not be addressed as Judge (surname) when acting as legal counsel in another judge's courtroom.
           -- Robert Hickey

Dear Mr. Hickey
     You state that a retired judge who returns to private practice is no longer entitled to the courtesies of being called "Judge" when he or she is in court.  It could be argued that the title of "Judge" has supplanted the title of "Mister" and that it would be a discourtesy (both to the retired judge and to the court that he or she served) to strip the retired judge of the title he or she earned.  In court the judge is referred to as "Your Honor," or "The Court," so the parties involved in the proceeding will not be confused.
    I should add to my earlier email that it is the practice in the legal community to continue to refer to a retired judge who has returned to private practice as "Judge (surname)," at least outside of the courtroom.
             --- JAL & GW

Hi JAL & GW,
         The pattern in forms of address is when one leaves an office which has a special form of address -- use of the courtesies of the forms of address related to the office extend to social use only.
        E.g., when USAF General who retires but subsequently works for a defense contractor -- he is addressed as Mr. (Name) while working in his new professional role.  But, he could still send out wedding invitations for his daughter's wedding (a social use) as General (Name).
        Through interviews with attorney's and jurists I have observed the same pattern. 
        Thus addressing a retired judge as Judge (Name) socially makes sense. But addressing a practicing attorney as Judge (Name) is misleading in his role in the current circumstance.
        When you see formers being addressed as currents ... it has more to do with the person addressing the former office holder wanting to flatter the former office holder, or the former office holder wishing to receive a courtesy accorded a current office holder.
           -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Judge and Spouse
In a Salutation?

    I am writing a letter from a High School to a Judge and his wife regarding their child.  What is the proper salutation for the letter?  Dear ............
  ??
 
         -- Thanks, D.N.

Dear D.N.:
    On pages 145-146 in my chapter on Joint Forms of Address I answer this question.
    The most formal salutation for a judge and his spouse (if she uses the same last name) would be:
 
           Dear Judge Jennings and Mrs. Jennings:
    In a salutation you always use the form of the name used in conversation.
    Most formally people who hold high offices get their full name as a unit ... so Dear Judge and Mrs. Jennings would not be traditionally correct.  Wives who use the same surname as their spouses traditionally lose their given name with addressed along with their husband. 

     -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Judge and Spouse
On the Letter and on the Envelope?

       How to I address a letter to a judge and her husband?

        -- Sam O'Brien

Dear Mr. O'Brien:
        I have a chapter in my book on joint forms of address to show the best form of addresses for men and women officials and their spouses. So if this sort of question comes up often, it would be a good resource for you.
        In a joint form of address the person with the higher title's name goes first.
        So if the wife is the judge and the husband is a "Mr." the form for both the address block on the letter and envelope would would be:
                The Honorable Nancy Jennings
                and Mr. Franklin Jennings
                2345 Westside Road
               
Melville, NY 11747
        Note that when the spouse is a man ... he get's his full name "Mr. Franklin Jennings."
        And the salutation would be:
                Dear Judge Jennings and Mr. Jennings:
        -- Robert Hickey

How to Address a Former Judge /
How a Former Judge Should Refer to Himself?

       I am a Magisterial District Judge who is retiring- having lost an election for purely political reasons. (In other words, no dishonor as referenced in one of the answers). I am returning to full time private practice. Here in PA, MDJs who are lawyers frequently have law practices in addition to their judicial post, which is what I did.
       I understand that many people will still call me “Judge” out or courtesy, respect, and friendliness. My question regards how I refer to myself. I do not intend to use that honorific in attorney correspondence. I am preparing announcements to send to friends, other lawyers, existing clients, and other people advising them that I will be expanding my practice to include certain matters that I could not, by rule, handle while an MDJ.
 
       Would it be proper, in those announcements, to say, for example, Judge Knight will draw on his 25 years of experience as a prosecutor and District Judge, in the defense of criminal and traffic cases.
 
       Thank you for your insight.
      
       -- Kevin Knight

Dear K.K.,
       In your announcements do not refer to yourself as Judge Knight.
       Best approach would be use a form that reflects the current position .. not a former position.
       Kevin Knight will draw on his 25 years of experience as a prosecutor and Magisterial District Judge, in the defense of criminal and traffic cases.
      
Certainly socially you could use Judge Kevin Knight on a daughter's wedding invitation if you choose to.  And if in the future you are at an event as a former MDJ ... then you could be addressed as Judge Knight.
       I am influenced by how protocol officers typically handle this in official situations. Protocol officers at the Pentagon who regularly have retired officers working for defense contractors, who as employees of the contractors are in commerce with the Pentagon.
       DoD's perspective on using his rank+name+retired in a subsequent job would be ... to paraphrase the current Chief of Protocol for the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon:  If retirees are in a new job, then they should be addressed in a way that supports their new job and not using military rank+name+retired – it is a misrepresentation. They are in a new job – not the military. When retired officers attend Pentagon events as the holder of a post-retirement job -- and are not invited as a retired officer -- they are not addressed by rank+name+retired on invitations or tent cards etc., but as Mr./Ms. (name) and their new company affiliation.
       -- Robert Hickey

How to List a Judge in a Journal's Table of Contents?
    Mr. Hickey,
    If a student law journal is publishing an article by a judge, should they list him in the table of contents as Honorable (first name, last name) or just by name?
        -- Jason Brand

Dear Mr. Brand,
     Most formally in written direct address he or she is:
          The Honorable (first name, last name)
      Then after his name identify him as "Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals of New York" or whatever ...
     In a academic journal ... if academic post-nominals are appropriate ... "The Honorable" is never used with post-nominal
          YES: (First name. last name), JD
          NO: The Honorable (first name. last name), JD
     I've seen Harry Reid, Senator from Utah referred to in a law journal as Harry Reid, JD, then they went on to identify him as the "Majority Leader and Senior Senator from Utah ..." 
     A 'by line' in a journal is not a direct form of address so the rules of 'how to address a letter' are not so definitive.

            -- Robert Hickey

How to Write A Judge's Name on a Certificate?
    
I see in your book forms of address for judges, but what about printing a certificate for an advisory committee in which we have both federal and state judges…..should the word honorable be used?
 
      -- R.A.

Dear R.A.,
    All US judges are addressed as "The Honorable (Full Name)"
    Some are appointed by the President ... which entitles them to be be:
        The Honorable (first name) (surname)
    Other are elected in general elections ... which also entitles them to be:
        The Honorable (first name) (surname)
    What options were you thinking of?
          A conversational form like Judge (Surname)?
          Or just their Full Name, Senior Judge, Third Circuit Court?
     Using
The Honorable is correct and is the most formal way to write their name. And therefore, they like it.
     I include all the forms of writing the names of judges and justices ... federal, state, and local ... in my book's chapter on US Federal, State and Municipal Officials.

         -- Robert Hickey

Capitalization of the "Y" in Your Honor?
    I have a question about capitalization. We actually have a post where readers can submit questions about capitalization, and in our post we discuss honorifics. Our advice to readers was to capitalize honorifics such as 'Your Honor.' A guest left a comment stating:
     "I beg to differ about your Honor. The court reporters in New York City have never capitalized the “y” in “your” while capitalizing the “H” in “Honor.” this has been consistent for decades (I started practicing here in 1973.)"
     My question is - should that 'y' be capitalized at all times, or not? My first instinct would be yes, as both words 'Your Honor' take the place of the judge's name and are meant to honor him or her. In any case, I'd like to be able to answer this reader. Thanks so much for any help you can give us!  I'll be glad to give you credit in my answer.

 
         -- Samantha at PricelessWriters

Dear Samantha @ PW:
      This is an editorial question rather than a forms of address question, so I am not in my precise area of interest, but here's my take on it. The closest I can suggest is when a courtesy title is in a sentence, the "the" is not capitalized:
         Today at 2:00 p.m. there will be an address by the Honorable Michael Bloomberg ...
    
I've heard from court reporters that they don't capitalized the "Y" in "your" but do capitalize the "H" in "Honor."  It 's their style and they use it consistently.
     The only hesitation I have is that names are capitalized in text and the combination of the both words in Your Honor is used in place of a name.  In a sentence The President will arrive in five minutes I would capitalize President because it is used in place of a name.  In the sentence The office of president has a term of four years I would not capitalize president because it is not used in place of a name.
    But in the end I leave this to copy editors!

    Note to other readers: here are the links to Samantha's blog (a really good source) at PricelessWriters: The original post on capitalization / and the blog of the questions they receive.
      -- Robert Hickey

More on Capitalization of the "Y" in Your Honor #2?
    What do you suggest when writing to a court when you do not know the name of the judge, but know that the document will in fact be read by a judge?  You indicate 'Your Honor' is an oral form, but what about when it must be written?  (Case in point, it's written herein.)
     I suggest that in that case Your Honor follow the same rule as Your Highness or Your Majesty.  In short, the Y and H are capitalized.

 
         -- RC @ comcast.net

Dear RC:
     I am not so sure Your Honor is something that "must be written." I know this is a hypothetical question, but I can't imagine I would direct a letter to a court and not find out exactly to whom it should be addressed.
    * Letters to a known judge are correctly addressed to Dear Judge (surname).
   
* Letters to any unknown person ... including a unknown judge at a court ... are best addressed to Dear Sir: or Dear Sirs: or Dear Sir or Madam: etc.
    Samantha's previous note was more of a copyediting question than a forms of address question, and I will leave the copyediting issues those professional copy editors who make all the other writers look so good.
      -- Robert Hickey


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