The Florida Bar
A former judge now in active practice as an attorney may not use a nameplate "Judge ..." on his door or on his desk. However, he may display documents and memorabilia of his former office so long as their display or use does not suggest he is presently a judge or should be addressed by that title. If he is addressed as "Judge ..." by clients, friends, and acquaintances, he does not have to forbid them to do so.
October 22, 1973
October 22, 1973
Note: Judicial conduct is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Judicial Ethics Committee issues opinions interpreting this Code.
Opinions: 70-63, 73-27; ABA Informal 1006
Vice Chairman Sullivan stated the opinion of the committee:
A member of The Florida Bar now in active practice served as a part-time municipal judge from 1967 to 1971. During that time, he was awarded certificates of merit from various civic organizations and a certificate of appointment from the municipality, all of which identify him as "Judge ...." He also received a photograph of himself with a nameplate reading "Judge ...," taken while he was presiding in court. He advises that clients, friends and acquaintances have voluntarily addressed him as "Judge" since he left the bench.
He has inquired whether he may properly:
1. Use a nameplate reading "Judge ..." on his private, not his outside, office door.
2. Display a nameplate reading "Judge ..." on his desk.
3. Display on his office walls the various certificates of commendation and appointment and the photograph.
The first and second questions are answered in the negative, the third in the affirmative.
We are governed by Opinions 70-63 [since withdrawn] and 73-27. ABA Informal Opinion 1006 also deals with the first question. In Opinion 70-63 [since withdrawn] this Committee said that a former judicial officer should never personally use the courtesy title "Judge" in his law practice. In other words, he should not do anything to designate himself as "Judge," although he does not have to forbid others from calling him "Judge" if they want to.
A former judge may properly preserve and display documents and memorabilia bearing the title "Judge" which were prepared at the time he was a judge and which indicate that he did hold a judicial office, but he should not display or use them in a way that suggests he is presently a judge or that he should be addressed by that title. The inquiry does not indicate whether the attorney acquired the door and desk nameplates while he was a judge or afterwards. In either event, the answer is the same.