How to Address a Retired Judge
How to Address a Former Judge

How to Address a Retired Judge

Unless he or she left the bench in dishonor, retired judges continue to be addressed in writing – or listed in a program as –  the Honorable’ (Full Name) . They are addressed in conversation or a salutation as Judge (Surname) in every social situation.

—–Listed in a program:
The Honorable (Full Name)

———-Judge of the (Name of Court) 1990-2010

—–Official or social envelope or address block of an email:
———-The Honorable (Full Name)


———-Dear Judge (Surname):

———-Judge (Surname)

See the next post for more about use of Judge (Name) in post-retirement professional endeavors.

– Robert Hickey How to Address a Retired or Former Judge


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

How Should a Former Judge Refer to Himself?

I am a Magisterial District Judge (MDJ) who is retiring – having lost when running for re-election (no dishonor involved). I am returning to full-time private practice. Here in Pennsylvania, MDJs are frequently lawyers who have law practices in addition to their judicial post, which is what I did.

I think some people will still call me Judge (Name). My question regards how I refer to myself?  I don’t intend to use the honorific judge in attorney correspondence. I am preparing announcements to send to friends, other lawyers, existing clients, and other people advising them 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.
————————–– Kevin Knight

Dear K.K., How to Address a Retired or Former Judge
In your announcements do not refer to yourself as Judge Knight.

In your new position, use a form of your name supported by your new position … not a former position

—–#1)  What to write? / Official Use:
—–—–I’d suggest wording such as ‘Kevin Knight – or Mr. Knight – will draw on his 25 years of experience as a prosecutor and Magisterial District Judge, in the defense of criminal and traffic cases.’
—–In this role as an attorney working for yourself, you are a private citizen. Use a form of your name pertinent to this role in this official use.

—–#2) Social Use: Former judges can correctly be Judge (Surname) socially after stepping down from the bench – but only in clearly social settings.. E.g, you could be Judge Kevin Knight & Mrs. Knight  on an invitation’s host line on your daughter’s wedding invitation. No one would be confused as to whether the wedding was an official event or a social event.
—–You might be Judge (Surname) at an event you attend as a former Magisterial District Judge – though it’s also possible the host might decide to reserve Judge (Name) for current judges in the room.

—–#3) I am influenced by how protocol officers typically handle this issue in official situations. Protocol officers at the Pentagon regularly encounter retired officers working for defense contractors. These contractors are at the Pentagon as a representative of the vendor to the Department of Defense.
—–—–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 supported by their new job and not using military rank + name + retired. This 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 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 Address a Retired or Former Judge

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Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.
___What I don’t cover on this site are many things I do cover in my book: all the rules of forms of address, about names, international titles, precedence, complimentary closes, details on invitations, place cards, all sorts of introductions, etc. I hope you’ll get a copy of the book if you’d like the further detail.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 


Robert Hickey author of “Honor & Respect”