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Is “your honour” the proper address for all U.S. judges rather than just the more senior ones?

In the UK this address is reserved for the more senior ones but it seems that in U.S. films and TV series judges are always called for honour in court. What judges are called this in the us and what other addresses are designated for judges?

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    Actually "senior" judges are My Lord or My Lady. Crown / Circuit Court judges are Your Honour.
    – user35069
    Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:51
  • Actually it depends how senior then I guess. Commented Jul 29, 2023 at 22:59
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    In the US you will rarely see "your honour" but rather "your honor." :-D
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 30, 2023 at 13:41
  • @phoog I was about to put that there.
    – hszmv
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 12:45

2 Answers 2

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Yes

An American would spell it as “your honor,” but yes, this is how we refer to all judges.

This is simply a custom that shows respect. There is no law or concrete fact I could cite that requires this; it is more of a “tradition.” But I have seen plenty of court proceedings (mostly on TV), and I can confirm that all judges, ranging from small claims court to the Supreme Court, are called “Your honor.” (The chief justice of the Supreme Court is sometimes addressed as “Chief Justice.”) Googling articles about courtroom etiquette also mostly leads to people who agree with this.

Apparently, there are some countries where it is customary to say “my honor,” or even something else altogether. Sometimes people from these countries immigrate to the US and continue using their local terminology in a US court. Although every judge is different, my perception is that most judges try to be inclusive of other cultures, and if whatever term they use is intended as a sign of respect, most judges will usually just interpret it as it was intended.

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  • I agree that this is the U.S. practice. FWIW, this is true even for people who's title is "magistrate" rather than judge. It is also permissible to address a judge presiding over a court proceeding in a courtroom as "the Court" as in, e.g., the phrase "may it please the Court".
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 16:58
  • @ohwilleke but "the court" refers collectively to all of the judges, does it not? It's only in the specific (and common) case where there is one judge that it could be said to be a form of address for a single judge.
    – phoog
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 17:32
  • @phoog Correct. But, in a trial court, where there is only one judge, "the Court" and "your honor" are basically perfect substitutes.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 20:13
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“Your Honour” is acceptable except for those who should know better

For most people in courts, calling the presiding officer “Your Honour” while it may not be strictly correct might be corrected but probably won’t be.

If you are a lawyer representing a client in court you should know the nuances:

  • “Your Honour” is the default
  • The Chief Justice of a superior court should be addressed as “Chief Justice”
  • Except the President of the Court of Appeal or the Industrial Relations Commission who should be addressed as “President”
  • Federal Court magistrates may be addressed as either “Your Honour” or “Federal Magistrate”
  • District Court Judges are properly addressed as”Your Honour Judge” but the Judge is often omitted after the first mention
  • An acting judge should be called “Judge” but yo are unlikely to be corrected in you use “Your Honour”

Magistrates were formerly addressed as “Your Worship” but that’s now obsolete. Basically because no one dragged before a Local Court knew that and the law was changed to reflect the reality that most self-represented litigants used “Your Honour”.

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  • This answer seems to be written about what is correct in Australia, but it does not say, and the question is tagged united-states. Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 13:09
  • @MarkDominus you should read it again - especially the first line
    – Dale M
    Commented Aug 1, 2023 at 21:40

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