Is a Person Still The Honorable When Working as Something Else?
I have a question regarding a former judge who by his own choice returned to private practice. When he was a judge he was the Honorable (Full Name). Is he still addressed in writing as the Honorable (Full Name) and in conversation as Judge (Name)? Would that be inappropriate now that he is a lawyer in private practice?
Hi Mark, How to Address a Former Official
—-#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)
—-—-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 necessarily accorded the courtesies of a current or fully-retired official when acting in a subsequent professional context. A judge who has assumed another position – e.g., returned to private practice and is acting as counsel in litigation – is addressed & identified on a business envelope in the style of an attorney.
—-—-He or she could be addressed in a purely social context as ‘Judge (Name)’ – by friends at parties, by neighbors on the street, or when issuing a wedding invitation for his daughter. But he would not be addressed as ‘Judge (Surname)’ when acting as legal counsel in another judge’s courtroom.
———————-– Robert Hickey
Dear Mr. Hickey,
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. A judge in court is referred to as ‘Your Honor,’ or ‘The Court,’ so the parties involved in the proceeding will not be confused.
I should add it is the practice in our 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.
If a retired judge were invited into the court room as a judge for some reason, then I’d say O.K. And if by ‘outside the courtroom’ you mean in social situations, I’d again say O.K.
The pattern in forms of address is when one leaves an office which has a special form of address – use of the forms of address related to the office extend to social use only. If one uses the dignity and honor of one’s former office for one’s personal monetary gain in a subsequent personal endeavor – red flags appear.
E.g., when USAF General who retires but then works for a defense contractor and is selling a product or service back to the U.S. government – he is addressed as Mr. (Name) while working as a commercial representative.
Through interviews with attorney’s and jurists I have confirmed the same pattern.
The former judge might still be addressed socially as Judge (Name) and could send out wedding invitations for his daughter’s wedding as Judge (Name) – because there is no possibility that anyone would think his actions have the force of the government behind them.
Thus, addressing a retired judge as Judge (Name) socially makes sense.
But addressing a practicing attorney as Judge (Name) is misleading to his role in the current circumstance.
– Robert Hickey How to Address a Former Official