How to Write a Letter to a Judge
Published Oct 12, 2020
If you’re locked in a legal battle, writing a letter to the judge might help you get a favorable decision. However, you should know that communicating with a judge outside of formal court proceedings is not allowed. Unless the law expressly permits it.
So if you’re planning to write a formal letter to the judge, talk to your lawyer first to know if such will help your case. A letter may sway the judge’s opinion in your favor. But sometimes, it achieves the opposite.
If your lawyer permits you to do so, here’s how to write a letter to a judge and ensure that their decision will be to your advantage.
What Letter Format to Use
When writing a letter to a judge, you should write in a business format. Use formal fonts and formal words. Remember that you are talking to a professional, not to a friend.
The business format uses left-aligned text for the entire letter. Write the date at the topmost part of the letter. This is followed by the judge’s address. Don’t forget to leave one line between the two. Then write your own name and address two lines beneath the judge’s address.
Next comes the salutation. Most US judges can be addressed as “Dear Judge (surname)”. But if you’re writing to a state or Federal Supreme Court judge, use “Dear Justice” instead. Or if you’re writing to the Chief Justice, you may also address them as such.
After the salutation, you can begin writing the body of your letter. Start by stating your purpose followed by everything you want to say to the judge. Keep it short and simple. Ideally, not more than one page. Don’t forget to check for spelling and grammar mistakes.
Close your letter with “Respectfully” or “Respectfully yours” followed by a comma. Beneath that, write your full name and signature.
To give you a visualization, the format looks like this:
<Address of the Judge>
I am writing this letter to <state your purpose and anything you want to say to the judge>
<Your full name>
How to Write a Letter for a Specific Purpose
There are plenty of reasons why someone would write to a judge. But know that there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to these letters. Though the format remains the same, the content and how you present your letter depends on your intent.
Here’s how to write a letter to a judge for a specific purpose:
Letter for Leniency
If you’re writing to plead for a lighter sentence, give specific details on why you deserve such. Through your words, paint the judge a clear picture of your situation. Help him/her understand what you are going through or why you did what you did. You can also ask a close friend or family for additional suggestions. Sometimes, there are good things about us that only other people can see.
The main purpose of a character letter to a judge is to vouch for a defendant’s character. This will help the judge see the defendant like how the community sees him/her.
If you’re writing a character letter, don’t forget to introduce yourself first. State your name, occupation, and any credentials that will convince the judge that you are in a position to vouch for someone’s character. Inform the judge that you know about the defendant’s legal charges and state how you know the defendant. It would be more helpful if you can include how many years you’ve known each other. Then state your reasons why you support the defendant.
Letter to Dismiss a Case
Sometimes, the victim will come into terms with the defendant and decides not to pursue the case anymore. But an appeal to dismiss a case doesn’t warrant a letter to a judge. Instead, you can write to the district attorney and state your reasons for withdrawing the charges. Besides, with no cooperation from you, the case can’t move forward and will eventually be dismissed.
Letter to Dismiss a Ticket
Depending on your violation, you can ask for a reduction of your fines. But as for dismissing the ticket, there’s a very slim chance of that ever happening. Most courts, however, will allow you to pull the tickets out of collection and even waive the collection fees. But you must show them a compelling reason why you failed to pay the tickets.
Useful Tips When Writing a Letter to a Judge
Address The Judge By Her Correct Name
You should begin your letter by addressing the correct name of the judge. Not putting the appropriate name of the judge might show rudeness. It will also give the impression that you’re not sincere because you did not even put an effort to know the name of the judge.
State The Purpose Of Your Letter Clearly
The judge should know why you are writing a letter in the first place. Do you want a lighter sentence? Do you want a lesser fine? You should include it in your letter.
For example, you can write that your family depends on you. Lengthier jail time will affect them emotionally and financially. It can also result in job loss and loss of income. All these can affect you, your family, and everyone around you.
Accept Responsibility and Show Regret
If your primary purpose for writing to the judge is to ask a lighter sentence, it’s best to admit that what you did was wrong. Show your remorse and state that you really regret what you did.
For instance, you can say: “I am guilty and not proud of what I’ve done to the victim.”
Your letter should also show that you are sincere and truthful. It will increase your chances of convincing the judge to be more lenient towards you.
Include Other Arrests or Crimes
It’s to your advantage if this is your first offense. However, if you have had previous convictions, you should convince the judge that you’ve already overcome the issue. Also, include proof that shows you’re no longer at risk of re-offending.
State Example of Your Good Deeds
Another thing that you can include in your letter is an example of your previous good deeds. If you’re a member of an organization or do charity works, then you can let the judge know through your letter.
This can help the judge have an impression of how capable you are in living as a good person.
Thank the Judge
Lastly, it would help if you thank the judge for taking the time to read your letter. You can also include that you’ll be thankful no matter what the outcome might be. But be careful not to use too much flattery. They will see right through it and may affect their opinion of you.
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About The Author
Judy Ponio is a firm believer in the power of sharing knowledge. Having extensive experience in the prison industry, she wants to share what she knows with the world. Judy also loves to write about political and legal topics.