How to Verbally Address a Judge

The courtroom can be an intimidating place, especially if you are representing yourself. Add to that the stress of being involved in a legal proceeding, the rules of which are unfamiliar to many, and tongues can get tied.

 

Nova Scotia has no formal directives on how to address Judges in court. Unless a Judge indicates to the contrary, counsel is permitted to use gender-neutral terms, such as Justice or Judge, followed by the jurist's last name. The gender-neutral term "Court" is also acceptable, as in: "If it pleases the Court, I would like to..." This reference is particularly useful in the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal where a panel of three or five Justices may be presiding.


Alternatively, when speaking to a male Justice in the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, they should be addressed as:

"My Lord", as in: "My Lord, I would like to......" or "Your Lordship", as in: "If it pleases Your Lordship, I would like to..."

 

When speaking to a female Justice in the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court, they should be addressed as: "My Lady", as in: "Yes, My Lady, I agree..." or "Your Ladyship", as in "If it pleases Your Ladyship..."

In the Provincial Court and the Family Court, the Judge is addressed as "Your Honour", regardless of gender. For example, "Yes, Your Honour, I will do that.".

Adjudicators and Registrars in the Probate Court, the Banruptcy Court and the Small Claims Court should be addressed as "Sir" or "Madame".

 

How to Address a Judge in Writing

A letter to the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal of Nova Scotia is addressed to him/her as Chief Justice of the Court or the Province (depending on the subject matter of the letter).

The Honourable [Justice's name],
Chief Justice of Nova Scotia
OR
The Honourable [Justice's name],
Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal

A letter to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable [Justice's name],
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

A letter to an Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable [Justice's name],
Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court

A letter to another Justice of either the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable Justice [Justice's name]
Justice of the [name the court]

A letter to the Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable [Judge's name],
Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts

A letter to an Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial or Family Courts is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable [Judge's name],
Associate Chief Judge of the [name the court]

A letter to another Judge of either the Provincial Court or the Family Court is addressed to him/her as:

The Honourable [Judge's name],
Judge of the [name the court]

 

What to Call a Chief Justice or a Chief Judge...

...in the Court of Appeal


The Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal is also the Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. On first reference, the Chief Justice is referred to as: "The Honourable John/Jane Doe, Chief Justice of Nova Scotia [or "...of the Court of Appeal"]. On second reference, the Chief Justive is referred to simply as:"Chief Justice Doe". The Court of Appeal does not have an Associate Chief Justice.

All other Court of Appeal Judges are referred to, on first reference, as: "The Honourable John/Jane Doe, Justice of the Court of Appeal".

Justices vs. Judges

"Justices" preside in the Court of Appeal and in the Supreme Court (including the Supreme Court's Family Division).

"Judges" preside in the Family Court and in the Provincial Court (including the Youth Justice Court, the Mental Health Court and the Domestic Violence Court).

"Adjudicators" preside in the Small Claims Court. They are not Judges.

"Registrars" usually preside in the Probate Court and in the Bankruptcy Court. They are not Judges.

On second reference, they are referred to as "Justice Doe".

...in the Supreme Court


The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is referred to on first reference, as: "The Honourable John/Jane Doe, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court". On second reference he/she is referred to as:"Chief Justice Doe". The Supreme Court has two Associate Chief Justices including one for the Court's Family DIvision.

 

The Associate Chief Justices of the Supreme Court are referred to on first reference as: "The Honouarble John/Jane Doe, Associate Chief Justice of the Supreme Court" [or "... of the Supreme Court Family Division"]. On second reference he/she is referred to as:"Associate Chief Justice Doe" [or "ACJ Doe"].

All other Judges of the Supreme Court are referred to on first reference as: "The Honourable John/Jane Doe, Justice of the Supreme Court" [or ".... Supreme Court, Family Division"]. On second reference, he/she is referred to as:"Justice Doe".

...in the Provincial Court or the Family Court

The members of the Judiciary who sit on the Provincial Court and Family Court are Judges, rather than Justices.

The Chief Judge of the Provincial Court is also the Chief Judge of the Family Court. On first reference, ther Chief Judge is referred to as:"The Honouarble John/Jane Doe, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court" [or "... Family Court"]. On second reference he/she is referred to as: "Chief Judge Doe".

The Provincial Court and the Family Court each have an Associate Chief Judge. The Associate Chief Judges are referred to, on first reference, as: "The Honouarble John/Jane Doe, Associate Chief Judge of the Provincial Court" [or "... of the Family Court"]. On second reference he/she is referred to as "Associate Chief Judge Doe" [or "ACJ Doe"].

All other Judges of the Provincial and Family Courts are referred to on first reference as: "The Honourable John/Jane Doe, Judge of the Provincial Court" [or ".... of the Family Court"]. On second reference, he/she is referred to as: "Judge Doe".

 

What to Call Another Judge when Speaking or Writing About Him/Her

When referring to members of the Nova Scotia Judiciary collectively and in a general way, the term "Judges" is acceptable - as in: "Canadian Judges don't use gavels." However, the Judges of specific Courts are called "Justices" or "Judges" depending on which Court they sit on.

Members of the Judiciary who sit on the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court (including its Family Division) are formally referred to
as “Justices” as in: "The Justices of the Court of Appeal usually sit as a panel of three".

Those who sit on the Provincial Court and the Family Court are formally referred to as “Judges” as in: "Judges of the Provincial and Family Courts are appointed provincially".

When talking or writing about a specific "Justice" of the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court (including its Family Division), he/she is referred to as “Justice John/Jane Doe” as in "Justice Doe asked Counsel for clarification on several points."

When talking or writing about a specific "Judge" sitting on the Provincial Court or the Family Court, he/she is referred to as “Judge John/Jane Doe” as in "Judge Doe rendered her decision orally in Court today".

 

When a Judge Retires

Often, after Justices and Judges retire, they continue their public service. For example, they may be appointed by the Federal or Provincial Governments to conduct a public inquiry. As such, the retired Judge is not working as a member of the Judiciary. So, he/she should not be referred to as “Justice” or “Judge John/Jane Doe”.

In the case of the public inquiry, and in first reference, the proper term is:

“Commissioner John/Jane Doe”
- or -
“Retired Justice/Judge John/Jane Doe”
- or -
"Former Justice/Judge John/Jane Doe”

Outside of his/her public service work, a retired Judge who is not sitting on a government-appointed body, is referred to, in first reference, as:
“Retired/Former Justice/Judge John/Jane Doe”

After that, "Mr. Doe" or "Ms. Doe" is acceptable.