When reading the news I often notice both the term "judge" and the term "justice" are used for what seems to be the same function. That is, someone who presides over a court. Supreme Court justices seem to never be called a "judge"? Is there a legal or otherwise meaningful difference between these two terms?

2 Answers 2


There are two kinds of judges who are commonly referred to as "Justices" in the United States.

First, judges on state supreme courts or the U.S. Supreme Court are called "Justices".

Second, in some states, the lowest level judges in the system, "Justices of the Peace" are called justices.

There is no legal difference between a judge and a justice. It is simply a stylistic honorific.


Its like the difference between “Colonel” and “Sir”

The rules are nicely complicated and depend on the particular judicial officer’s place in the court hierarchy.

The term justice only applies to judicial officers of superior courts (list in the link) and the rules are:

Judges in these courts should be addressed as “Your Honour,” unless they are the Chief Justice of a particular court in which case they should (surprise) be addressed as “Chief Justice.”

If you’re introducing a superior court judge to somebody outside of court (how fancy and well-connected of you!) you should introduce them as “Justice …” and you should refer to them in conversation as “judge.”

In written form they should be referred to as “The Honourable Justice …” and any correspondence should be addressed to Dear Judge – unless they’re a Chief Justice in which case it would be Dear Chief Justice.

When identifying judges with respect to their judgments in academic writing, you can abbreviate by using their surname followed by either a J or CJ as appropriate. For example, in the High Court you would refer to Chief Justice Susan Kiefel as Kiefel CJ and Justice Stephen Gageler as Gageler J.

The President of the Court of Appeal and the President of the Industrial Relations Commission of NSW should be addressed as “President” both in conversation and in writing. However, you will likely be forgiven without much fuss if you forget and instead call them “Judge.”

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