Ethics Opinion

Opinion No. 78-8

August 1978

Summary: A retired judge should not use the title "Judge," either directly or indirectly, in the practice of law.

Facts: An attorney asks whether and under what conditions a retired judge may use the title "Judge" in practicing law.

Discussion: We are of the opinion that the use, directly or indirectly, by a former judge of the title "Judge" in the practice of law is improper. Regardless of the purpose or intent of the person using the title, the clear impression conveyed to others, including judges, other lawyers and the public is that the lawyer is able to effect a better result on behalf of his client, or is better able to enhance his client's cause, because of his position as a former member of the judiciary. Conveying the latter impression violates DR 9-101(C) which states, in part, that "[a] lawyer shall not state or imply that he is able to influence improperly or upon irrelevant grounds any tribunal, legislative body or public official." See also DR 8-101. Using the title "Judge" in the circumstances described may also be misleading. See DR 2-102(B). We are not unmindful of the common practice, either as a courtesy to a retired judge or out of respect for him, of using the title "Judge" when addressing a former member of the judiciary. We see nothing improper in this limited, social use of the title by those addressing a former judge, but we think that the former judge engaged in the practice of law should avoid the title when referring to himself.

Permission to publish granted by the Board of Delegates on June 21, 1978. As stated in the Rules of the Committee on Professional Ethics, this advice is that of a committee without official governmental status.