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Etiquette of Addressing Letters to Former Judges

Updated April 17, 2017

Addressing letters to former or retired officials can be a delicate process, as some officials retain their titles for life and others do not. Judges maintain the title of "Honorable" for life, though there are some changes to the way you should print their address on the letter. The salutation of a letter to a retired judge is the same as the salutation of a letter to an acting judge.

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Address on the Envelope

For an acting judge, print the name of the court over which the judge presides after the Judge's name. For example, a letter going to an acting judge named John Smith would read "The Honorable John Smith, Judge of the 'Name of Court' of 'City or County'." For a retired judge, omit the court over which he presided and simply include the honorary title and the retired judge's first and last name: "The Honorable John Smith." The next line will be the address.

Address on the Letter

A business letter in full block format includes the recipient's name and address on the upper left corner, under the return address and date. The address on the letter should exactly match the address on the envelope. For a retired judge, this would mean the honorary title and the judge's first and last name on the first line, and the judge's address on the second and third lines.

Salutation in the Letter

The traditional salutation in a business letter is the word "Dear" with the recipient's title and last name. An acting judge and a retired judge receive the same title, which is "Judge." A letter to a retired judge named John Smith would have this salutation: "Dear Judge Smith:".

Other Titles Held for Life

Former presidents of the United States maintain the title for life. The salutation of the letter may read, "Dear President Smith." Senators also maintain the honorary title of senator for life. Military officers maintain their titles, but when addressing the envelope it is customary to include the word "retired" after their name: "General John Smith, United States Air Force, Retired." As a general rule, it is always acceptable to use a former official's title out of respect for the office he held.

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About the Author

Genevieve Findelaville is a freelance writer specializing in areas within the arts. Findelaville holds a Master of Music in voice performance from the Chicago College of Performing Arts and a Bachelor of Music in voice performance with an emphasis in musical theater and opera from Capital University.

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