The Florida Bar

Ethics Opinion

Opinion 75-34

March 10, 1977
Advisory ethics opinions are not binding.
A former judge who practices law and also serves as a corporate officer may not use the title
“Judge” with his name on the corporation’s stationery, nor should the corporation’s employees
refer to him as “Judge” in communications with third persons.
Note: Judicial conduct is governed by the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Judicial Ethics
Committee issues opinions interpreting this Code.

DR 2-101
70-63, 73-27, 73-31

Vice Chairman Lehan stated the opinion of the committee:
A practicing lawyer had been a judge for a period of four months
approximately nine years ago. He advises that he is commonly known in the
community as “Judge ....” He engages in the practice of law and also separately in
business as the president and chairman of the board of a company involved in
financial matters and having regular dealings with the public. He asks:
(1) Whether his identification on the letterhead of the separate business may
properly refer to him as “Judge ….”
(2) Whether he must forbid the employees of the separate business to use the
title “Judge” in referring to him when addressing outside persons.
The Committee answers the first question in the negative and the second question in the
Prior opinions of this Committee have established that use of the title “Judge” by a
practicing lawyer who was formerly a judge may be improperly self-laudatory under DR 2-101.
As to the first question presented by this inquiry, the prohibitions of DR 2-101 against a lawyer
participating in the use of any form of public communication containing professionally
self-laudatory statements and against a lawyer publicizing himself as a lawyer through any
means of commercial publicity are not restricted to statements or publicity directly incident to, or
referring directly to, his law practice, such as identification of a lawyer as “Judge” on his law
office stationery. Those prohibitions would include participation in any form in such statements
or publicity which would be construed as professionally self-laudatory. A lawyer should not do,
or permit others over whom he has control to do, indirectly what he cannot do directly under the
Code of Professional Responsibility. Accordingly, those prohibitions would preclude
identification of a practicing lawyer as “Judge ...” on the letterhead of a business which deals
with the public and of which he is chief executive officer. See Opinions 70-63 [since
withdrawn], 73-27, and 73-31.

As to the second question, Opinions 73-27 and 70-63 [since withdrawn] state that a
former judge engaged in the practice of law should instruct his office staff to refrain from
affirmatively placing third persons in an embarrassing position of dealing with “Judge ....”
Opinion 70-63 [since withdrawn] also states that he should not be required to forbid his staff or
others from addressing him as “Judge ...” if the title has become attached to the particular man,
rather than the judicial office.
The Committee adheres to those former opinions and feels that under the circumstances
of this inquiry there should be no valid distinction between the employees in question being
those employed by a separate business of which the practicing lawyer is chief executive officer
(as in this inquiry) or those employed by the lawyer’s law office (as in the circumstances
surrounding the former opinions; the instant inquiry does not refer to employees of the inquiring
attorney’s law office). Accordingly, the employees of the separate business referred to in this
inquiry should be instructed to avoid using the title “Judge ...” in referring to the lawyer when
communicating with outside persons. But such employees may address the lawyer himself as
“Judge” if the title has in general usage become attached to him as part of his commonly
understood name.
In any case of doubt, for example, where such employees are addressing both outside
persons and the lawyer at the same time in the presence of both, the doubt should be resolved
against use of the term “judge” with reference to the lawyer in question.
An additional aspect of this inquiry with regard to question (2) above is that the use of the
title “Judge ...” may reduce confusion with the identity of a relative and business associate of the
same name. The Committee does not feel that the possibility of such confusion would justify
departing from the foregoing opinion of the Committee as to that question, especially in written
correspondence and in answering the telephone. However, in specific cases of such confusion the
Committee recognizes that it may be necessary to use “Judge ...” as a method of correcting the