How to Address a Letter to a Judge

How to Address a Letter to a Judge

Writing a letter to a judge is bound to be an intimidating experience. It is especially true if that judge is presiding over a trial related to you or your family and will be making decisions that might significantly impact your life. The important thing is to use a formal tone and the correct form of address.

1 Examples of Letters to a Judge

There are several situations in which a person would need to write a letter to a judge.

For instance, a defendant will sometimes write a letter to a judge requiring lenient consequences for themselves. If they have children or other dependants under their care who would suffer in their absence, they may ask if the judge would consider sentencing them to house arrest instead of a jail term.

A letter to a judge could also be a victim impact statement whose goal is to convey to the judge how the crime has affected the victim or the family.

Finally, there maybe a situation where you would want or may be asked to write a character reference letter to support your family member or friend or employee, describing how you know them and explaining, for instance, that the crime they committed may be out of character for them.

2 Addressing the Judge on the Recipient Line

First, you need to address the letter to the judge on the recipient line of the envelope where you write the address of the court. You also need to write this information on the top left corner of the letter itself.

On the envelope, in the recipient line, write “The Honorable” followed by the judge’s first and last name, for instance, “The Honorable Jennifer Smith.”

3 Addressing the Judge on the Salutation Line

At the beginning of the letter, in the salutation line, you should address the judge as “Judge” followed by their last name. For instance, “Dear Judge Smith”. But this varies slightly depending on what kind of judge they are.

Specifically, for Regular Federal Appellate and District Judges, Bankruptcy Judges and Senior Status Judges, write “Dear Judge (last name)” on the salutation line (For example, “Dear Judge Smith”.)

For Chief Federal Appellate and District Judges, you need to address them as “Chief Judge”. For example, you would write “Dear Chief Judge Smith.”

For Federal Magistrate Judges, address them by the title “Magistrate Judge”, for instance, “Dear Magistrate Judge Smith.”

For State Supreme Court Justices, use the address “Dear Justice (last name),” and for Chief State Supreme Court Justices use “Dear Chief Justice (last name).”

The way you address State Appellate Judges and State Trial Judges differs by state. Some states use the title “Judge” and others “Justice.”

If you are addressing the judge again later in the text of the letter, use the same form of address as in the salutation line.

Tanya Mozias Slavin is a former academic and language teacher. She writes about education and linguistic technology, and has published articles in the Washington Post, Fast Company, CBC and other places. Find her at