87 N.J.L.J. 700
October 29, 1964
Use of Title "Judge" by a Practitioner
Inquiries have been presented concerning the propriety of
former Superior Court or County Court Judges, or Magistrates still
in office, in the course of their practice of law permitting or
encouraging others to still address them as "Judge" in the trial of
The inquirer asks:
A. "Is it proper for a former member of the judiciary, regardless of the court, to use the title 'Judge' or insist through subordinates that this is the proper designation?
B. Is it proper for a Magistrate during his term to use the term "Judge" on stationery, or outside of his particular municipal court?
C. What is the proper method of counteracting the effect of the use of the word "Judge" during the course of the trial of an action, in the event that the use of the word is improper?
Question A involves matters of individual personality and character traits. In a trial courtroom it is clear that the appellation "Judge" should be applied only to those sitting on the bench as triers of cases. To so confine the use of the title would be not only functionally correct but it would avoid any appearance of a former judge of any court trying to trade on his former title to obtain some preferential or deferential treatment or some undue advantage over his adversary.
The Preamble to the Canons of Professional Ethics states:
In America, where the stability of Courts and of all departments of government rests upon the approval of the people, it is peculiarly essential that the system for establishing and dispensing Justice be developed to a high point of efficiency and so maintained that the public shall have absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality of its administration.
Outside the courtroom in social gatherings or among intimates addressing or referring to a retired member of a court as "Judge" is often a mark of sincere respect for long and honorable service as a jurist. Long tradition and reasonable amenities justify such usage where there can be no possible attempt to seek preferential treatment or unduly impress a jury.
It is our opinion, however, that referring to an advocate, formerly a member of a court at any level, by his former judicial title in the course of the trial of a case in open court is not calculated to inspire in the public or in the minds of the litigants "absolute confidence in the integrity and impartiality" of the administration of justice.
Similar reasoning leads to the same conclusion in answer to question B, as to the propriety of a Magistrate during his term of
office using the term "Judge" on his stationery. For stationery used in conduct of official court business the use is proper; where, however, the stationery is used for the private practice of law or business purposes the use of the term "Judge" would be improper.
Question C does not raise a question of ethics and is not within the province of this Committee.