Archive for March, 2015

How do you address in writing a former state senator?
          — RW in Florida

Dear RW,
A U.S. state senator is addressed as “the Honorable” — once one is “the Honorable” one is “the Honorable” for life.  Retired senators, since they are not one-officeholder-at-a-time officials continue to be addressed as “Senator (Name)”.
But, you say former state senator.
If you are addressing a letter relating to his/her public service, or it is social correspondence (a letter to a neighbor, a holiday note, or get-well card) — address the envelope and use in the letter’s envelope and address block  The Honorable (Full Name).  Use Senator (Surname) in the salutation.
If you are writing to someone who served as a state senator, but is now working in some commercial/professional role —  e.g., they are now your insurance agent, attorney, or stock broker — and you are writing to them in the context of this commercial/professional endeavor — address him/her as Mr./Ms./Dr./etc. (Name).  
In the U.S.A. we address people as pertinent to the situation. Each of us has many names and each is correct in a specific time and place. E.g., a woman named “Ann Robinson” might be addressed as “Mrs. Robinson”, “Ann”, “Mom” or “Sweetheart”.  Each name is how she is addressed in a certain situation. How she is addressed relates to (1) who is addressing her and (2) in which role she is being addressed.
Robert Hickey

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Dear Robert,
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. Is he still addressed “The Honorable (Full Name),” and as “Judge (Name)”, or would that be inappropriate now that he is 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)

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  — 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
t 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 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.
          — 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 and is selling a product or service 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 observed 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).  [There is no possibility in either case that one 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.
        When you observe 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 continue to receive a courtesy accorded a current office holder than with a correct form of address.
— Robert Hickey

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